A study by Shop.org and Forrester Research shows 85 percent of retailers surveyed said search marketing (including paid and SEO) was the most effective customer acquisition tactic. And, the research showed paid search was the channel most heavily invested in.
PPC drove more revenue in 2013 than 2012, according to 76 percent of survey respondents. For 19 percent of the respondents, paid search accounted for more than 50 percent of their marketing budgets.
Even with the glowing reviews for paid search, Shop.org's executive director, Vicki Cantrell, said retailers should expand their horizons.
"While much of the ground work has been laid for perfecting paid search and how well it works for retailers' customer acquisition goals, the fact of the matter is that retailers still have plenty of opportunities to learn more about their customers' needs."
Display ads were seeing a comeback as well. From the announcement:
Display ads are seeing something of a resurgence: specifically remarketing, retargeting, and behavioral targeting ranked among retailers' leading customer acquisition tactics, and display ads now collectively rank as the second highest area of marketing spend behind paid search.
Vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, Sucharita Mulpuru, said the renewed interest in display advertising makes social a more viable option for acquisition.
"Thanks to the effectiveness and renewed budget focus on display advertising, Facebook cannot be counted out from a retail advertising stand point. People think of Facebook as a social network, but in reality it's another medium for personalized display advertising – likely explaining why Facebook has surfaced so high in planned budget spend this year."
Organic traffic was also mentioned as an effective channel, with 41 percent saying so. The announcement said retailers were investing more in organic this year than last, among other tactics like affiliate programs and remarketing.
You might remember another study back in June 2013 from Custora that showed the organic acquisition channel held the most value over time (i.e., customer lifetime value) for ecommerce sites.
The full research study can be downloaded here (for a fee).