Christmas shoppers
Marketing Social Media

Social Media Rarely Leads to Holiday Retail Sales, Says New Study


Social media clicks accounted for 2 percent of holiday retail sales online this year, according to research from Custora. The SaaS e-commerce analytics company surveyed more than 100 retailers and found that 2 percent of unique purchases were made through social media clicks since Nov. 1, in what is often considered the busiest shopping period of the year and includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Organic searches accounted for the highest number of sales, at 26 percent.

This low number of sales sourced from social media is surprising, Custora said. Many companies have expanded their social media presence ahead of the holiday shopping period. Content and social media marketers may now question if their efforts were worthwhile in addressing the continued growth of e-commerce and online retail.

“It is fair to say — and perhaps pretty surprising — that clicks from social very rarely directly lead to orders,” said Custora Co-Founder Corey Pierson to Ad Age. He also noted that retailers that index much higher on search engines had a greater success rate of e-commerce sales through social, at about 10 percent.

While speaking on Bloomberg regarding Cyber Monday, Pierson also noted that “bigger and bigger discounts are needed, the environment is getting more competitive.” He stated that retailers and their marketing strategies need to focus on long-term value and customer relationships. Social media campaigns aimed at Christmas spending may have lacked a vision for building relationships with customers and getting people back again in January, February and March.

“Google is still the gateway,” for customers searching for gifts, said Pierson. “It’s fairly rare for someone to go directly from that link on Facebook and immediately to an order. However, it is the way that brands are communicating with customers. It’s a little more brand awareness and building that relationship with customers and a little less about immediate orders.”

Social media’s results suggest that retailers’ marketing strategies need to find a balance between building customer relationships and brand awareness through social media and actually driving a customer to a sale. Custora’s findings show that factoring high in search results is key, so brand awareness on social media may improve customers’ awareness of your products, but it is search that will yield sales.

Shoppers that start the purchasing process by visiting a retailer’s site or app accounted for 25 percent of purchases, while email marketing brought in 17 percent of buyers. Paid searches also pulled in a large segment of shoppers, at 16 percent. Custora found that, overall, e-commerce revenue in the 2013 Christmas season is up 19 percent compared to the same period last year, with visitor traffic to retailers’ websites up 20 percent.

While the majority of holiday retail sales were made with a desktop, there was also a rise in the number of purchases made with mobile devices. The use of phones is up 5 percent and tablet is up 3 percent compared to 2012, showing an increased desire from customers to use mobile more regularly.

Photo: Flickr

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