Study Dismisses Social Media As Effective Direct Sales Channel

Share this article

Less than one percent of online retail transactions come from social media, according Forrester Research’s new report “The Purchase Path of Online Buyers in 2012”. The report, which analyzed 77,000 online transactions over a two-week period in April, advises that small business owners and marketers focus their sales efforts on other more effective channels.

“In spite of changes to the interactive marketing landscape and the growing number of shoppers using mobile and tablet devices to access content, core elements of web marketing continue to be effective,” writes Forrester Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru.

Make money on Social Media

Multiple platforms influence many buyers, according to Forrester, with the most popular being organic search, paid search and email. For example, email and direct traffic matter most for repeat customers, with 30 percent of their transactions prompted by an email from the retailer. “Because your best customers are already those most likely to be receptive to retailer marketing messages, it is not surprising that email is an extremely effective tactic for driving sales from repeat shoppers,” notes the report.

An additional 30 percent type the retailer’s URL directly into a browser. “While explicit interactive marketing tactics are critical to sales, a significant portion of buyers visit sites directly by typing in the retailer’s URL,” says the report. “As more eBusiness professionals focus on promoting their site URL to buyers on everything from store shopping bags to outbound packaging, consumers are likely to visit a site directly, particularly when the URL is intuitive and simple to remember.”

As for new customers, paid search matters most. “Because the Web continues to be a powerful tool for ‘spear fishers’, who look for specific products or brands by typing words into a search box, it is not surprising that new buyers are heavily influenced by paid search, much more so than repeat buyers,” the report states. In fact, 39 percent of online retail transactions by new customers start with clicks from paid or organic search results. One-third of their transactions involve more than one trackable touchpoint, compared to almost half of repeat customers who visit multiple trackable touchpoints.

When it comes to social media, the study reveals that they just cannot be counted on to drive meaningful sales. While 48 percent of consumers reported that social media posts are a great way to discover new products, brands, trends or retailers, less than 1% of transactions could be traced back to trackable social links.

“While the hype around social networks as a driver of influence in e-commerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales for either new or repeat buyers,” Forrester reports.

The report concluded by saying that it is critical for e-commerce merchants to recognize that:

  • They must continue perfecting email marketing programs.
  • They shouldn’t neglect search engine strategies.
  • They shouldn’t overestimate the impact of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks in marketing.
  • They should actively promote their URLs across channels because they are significant drivers of traffic from both new and repeat shoppers.
  • They should leverage attribution modeling because so many customers touch multiple marketing touchpoints prior to a transaction.

Author Bio: Beth Longware Duff is a professional editor and award-winning writer whose work on a wide variety of topics has been published in print and electronic media. She currently writes on a wide range of topics dealing with electronic payment processing for Merchant Express.