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Email Beats Search, Social as Largest Driver of Conversions for Ecommerce [Study]

jessica-lee
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Search and social have long been touted as the dynamic duo in marketing, but data from Monetate's Ecommerce Quarterly report shows email is the biggest driver of conversions in Q1 2013.

In analyzing more than 500 million shopping experiences, Monetate found the conversion rate for email marketing was more than 3 percent, while search came in under 2 percent and social under 1 percent.

conversion-rate-by-source-monetate

But conversions weren't the only area where email shined. Email rivaled search as a top referrer leading to the most page views on a site.

email-pageviews-monetate

And it isn't just Q1 2013 where email is kicking butt. Data from Monetate shows email continues to be the top driver of conversions each quarter the study is published:

monetate-historical-conversions-data

Monetate's vice president of marketing, Blair Lyon, explains why email can be so successful in ecommerce marketing:

"Email is all about segmentation and personalized messaging. We need to continue to focus on delivering relevant messaging that is appropriate to the individual person, their behavior and time. Matching the email to the context and stage of that customer in their buying process is crucial. It really is all about the right content to the right customer at the right time."

In his commentary in the Monetate EQ1 report, marketer Jay Baer said email marketing might not be receiving the attention it deserves, and here's why:

"Because it's by no means the new kid on the marketing block, and hasn't had many particularly impactful technology jumps in recent years, I fear (and see) many companies are running their email programs essentially on autopilot. This is a huge missed opportunity, because email is responsible for generating twice as much direct traffic as social media, and fully four times the conversion rate."

Search Remains Top Driver of Traffic

Search remains a crucial driver of traffic for ecommerce, generating 31 percent of website traffic versus just 3 percent each from email and social media.

"Search is always going to drive a high volume of traffic because it is driven by the user's intent," Lyon said.

The study notes, however, that nearly half of the 500 million visits analyzed showed "no referrer" traffic, and that could be visits from native apps or traffic to HTTPS websites disguised as no referrer.

With all that traffic, how do site owners capitalize on it?

"I think what's really important is brands make sure the site experience is relevant to how people get to a site from search; consistency is critical," Lyon said. "If I search for boots and click on an ad that looks relevant, the site had better deliver the experience I am expecting."

And speaking of conversions, can you guess which search referrer drove the most conversions? You may be surprised: it's AOL search. Monetate didn't have any specifics on why AOL was converting so well.

aol-conversion-rate-monetate

Even though traffic data from the EQ1 2013 report seems promising, historical data from Monetate shows website traffic from search, social, and email are all down from the same time last year.

monetate-historical-traffic-data

How Social Factors in Ecommerce & Tips for Integration

The value of social lies in building awareness, not selling, Monetate confirmed in its research. While social did drive .71 percent of conversions at ecommerce sites, Baer said in the report that "brand-led, direct social commerce tactics are ineffective."

He goes on to say, "these are the kinds of social media programs that would count as social-referred visits and conversions, such as Twitter offers, links to specific products on Facebook, and similar executions."

When asked if brands need to rethink social advertising, Lyon says social commerce does have a way to go, and that brands should perhaps focus on "influence messaging" and sharing among friends versus direct calls to action.

Of the .71 percent of social conversions, visual marketing platform Pinterest saw the highest spend. Average order value from the Pinterest referral was $80.54, with Facebook trailing behind at $71.26.

average-order-value-by-social-monetate

If you own an ecommerce business and you're not on Pinterest, Lyon said you could be missing out, but reinforced that "each brand needs to do its homework on the presence of their customers on Pinterest to guide their digital marketing strategies."

There is a time and place for social marketing, and while it may not be the direct commerce Monetate talks about avoiding, the report does gives tips on how to boost social's role in ecommerce:

  • Implement a social login on your site to keep customers on the website longer. Provide interesting content or insider deals and promotions for your social media fans.
  • Give visitors even more reason to share, like offering customer reward points or dollars for on-site social behavior that drives sales.
  • Don't overlook simple, but proven tactics like badging your "most liked" products.
  • Segment your social refers and consider giving special offers to the group that doesn't have as high of a conversion rate as the others.

Are you seeing the same lift in conversions from email marketing over other channels like search and social? Please share your experiences in the comments below.


SimilarWeb Search and traffic sourcing are both crucial to luring shoppers to your website. In this article, "2 Successful Holiday Strategies for Online Retail", you'll learn how to use a two-pronged approach for your holiday search campaigns that combine top keywords with the best referral sites. Data in this article comes from SimilarWeb.

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