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Summary:

Retailers are looking increasingly to social networks to bring in customers and ultimately drive more sales. But data from online marketing provider Monetate show that social still lags email and search in sales conversions and average purchase amounts.

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Social networks are driving more traffic to ecommerce sites, but they still lag behind traditional channels like search and email in conversions and average order value. According to Monetate, an online marketing provider that analyzes more than 100 million online shopping experiences, email was the leader in conversions to sales in the second quarter of this year, with 4.25 percent, ahead of search at 2.49 percent and social at 0.59 percent. When you look at average order value, search comes out on top with $90.40, followed by email $82.72 with social trailing with $64.19. These numbers come from Monetate’s second quarter ecommerce report.

Monetate, which serves more than 100 top commerce sites, reported in its first quarter study earlier this year that social traffic to ecommerce sites has increased by 77 percent in the past year. The company found that 73.19 percent of Facebook   visitors view at least one product detail page, but they also don’t stick around on a site, with 45.67 percent leaving after viewing just one page. By comparison, 56.30 percent of visitors coming in from Google search view a product page, but just 25.69 percent leave after viewing one page.

The numbers are a reminder that social is still not up to par with other channels in driving actual sales and revenue. Networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can be good for building a relationship with consumers and prompting conversations around products. But, online retailers can’t expect that in-bound traffic from social networks to pay off in the same way as search and email.

Monetate Director of Corporate Communications Marifran Manzo-Ritchie told me that social is still new but many retailers have been measuring it by referral traffic. She said a fuller view of the effectiveness of social shows it’s still maturing as a commerce tool.

“Ecommerce providers are still using email and search because those methods are proven to work and they’re not going away.  That being said, with the hype around social, it can be very tempting for an ecommence marketer to launch a full-scale ad campaign on social media, thinking that traffic = conversions. But with this kind of data now available, a marketer might think twice before betting the farm on social,” said Manzo-Ritchie.
Social can be a complicated tool to wield. It can definitely raise awareness and, for people who can establish themselves as a trusted authority on a social network, that can drive traffic. But the nature of many social networks means most people aren’t in shopping mode, so they’re not always ready to make a purchase.
It doesn’t mean investing in social media isn’t worth it. Social can still drive a lot of new commerce that might not have come through other channels. And for some retailers who integrate social well, there’s still a lot of upside. Fab.com, for example, said people who use social features on the site continue on to purchase more than twice as much as Fab members who don’t use social features. But retailers should be aware of the current limitations of social in driving revenue.
Image courtesy of Flicrk uses jsteebyphd.
  1. What this misses is that social content now drives search and is used for content in many email newsletter campaigns.

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    1. good point & great comment…i didn’t even think of that.

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  2. We’ve been seeing this for some time. The key driver of this is intent. You have great intent when you are searching. And you have very little intent when you see an ad while on a social network.

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    1. Exactly! Those who are gaga over social media always try to pitch it as the be-all, end-all, but as Dev says, its the intent that drives the purchase. So many social media users are there for the often vacuous conversation and detest the pop-up pitches, corner ads and marketing messages. If people want to buy something, they go looking. That may not cover those who are there for the conversation, but aren’t sure what the heck they’re doing and get an impulse, but I would think that percentage is small.

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