Social media driving less than 2% of online retail traffic

Viable market?

Social media may not be generating as much e-commerce revenue as the sites would like marketers to believe. Driving just 1.55% of major online retailers’ traffic, social networks sit well behind email, which generates almost double the amount of page views at 2.82% and its impact is almost non-existent compared to search engines, which are responsible for 31.42% of e-commerce traffic.  The outlook for social media gets worse when taken into account that of that 1.55% only 0.71% of visits actually results in a transaction taking place, almost four times less than the 3.19% of email conversions.

The figures come from a report by Monetate covering Q1 2013 activity from more than 500m online shopping experiences. The report not only reveals the relative inefficiency of social networking in driving direct traffic to e-commerce sites, but also shows a slight decrease from the previous year’s first quarter when social was responsible for 2.36% of traffic.  

Social Influencers

While the results may be bad news for traffic, they do not reflect the way in which social sites influence users’ e-commerce habits. Based on the ‘last-interaction’ model, the findings undervalue social sites’ significance in assisting retailers generating sales. Thereby, brands use Facebook to start conversations about products and build relationships with customers that may led them to buy the products. For example, a Facebook user might see a product advertised and then Google it in search of the best deal before parting with cash.

Social Still Important For Brands

While social may mainly act as an influencer on consumer’s habits it can still be important for brands to maintain their social media presence, with Facebook recently partnering with Target to drive more sales directly through the site. A report by AddShoppers found further evidence that social commerce draws actual cash, claiming that the average Facebook share or like is worth USD2.35, while shares on Google+ are valued at almost USD11. Moreover, Monetate found that social referrals often generate larger sales, with the average Pinterest-led purchase valued at USD80, with Twitter and Facebook-referred sales bringing in USD70 on average.    

High Search Conversions

However for brands, search engines still remain exponentially more effective at converting page views into purchases than social, converting 1.95% of visitors into buyers. AOL saw the highest rate of conversion at 4.48%, followed by Bing at 3.03%, Yahoo! with 2.8% and finally Google, which saw 1.71% of all its referrals converted into sales. Facebook in contrast only led to 1.08% buys, ahead of the more product driven Pinterest, which only saw 0.36% of its referrals converted last quarter. Yet old fashioned email is still best for brands wanting to change views into buys with 3.19%.


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