Forrester Study Reveals Social is Not Key to Driving Online Sales

3 minute read
Josette Rigsby avatar

Forrester and GSI Commerce have released a new report thatgives organizations more insight into exactly how consumers buy online. Thestudy examined tens of thousands of orders and found that in spite oftechnology advances and more sophisticated marketing techniques -- nothing hasreally changed when it comes to what drives people to buy online.

New Tools, Same Story

Forrester partnered with GSI Commerce and digital agency True Action for the second time to examine which interactive marketing techniques influence consumer behavior. Researchers evaluated 77,000 online purchases in April 2012 for differences between new and repeat retail shoppers.Surprisingly, few things have changed when it comes to what influences consumers to make online purchases.

According to the report, a significant number of purchases occur after consumers interact with multiple touchpoints. The data showed 33 percent of purchases from new customers and 48 of those from repeat customers involved more than one touch point. Most sales and marketing professionals are well aware of this fact. Unfortunately, e-Commerce tools continue to focus on the last touch point, which can result in undervaluing the impact of early marketing activities like display ads.

The research also found that although multiple touchpoints influence buyers, paid search has the most impact for new customers, while email marketing is most effective for repeat customers.

Learning Opportunities

Businesses may be heavily investing in social to attract new business, but according to Forrester, it’s not really paying off. Social marketing had a negligible impact on sales. Social ads impacted less than 1 percent of transactions for all shoppers. However, the study does note that social activity may be important for smaller retailers or may require a longer measurement window than the 30-day period used by the study.

In addition to search and email marketing, around 30 percent of purchases occurred after consumers typed in a retailer’s URL. This means it’s important for consumers to showcase their website address as much as possible on ads in other channels and on promotional materials. Businesses should also make their site addresses simple. Consumers are more likely to visit URLs that are easy to remember.

What's Important for Marketers

Marketers continue to struggle with selecting the right tools and techniques to attract customers as technology rapidly evolves. However, marketers must be careful not to get caught up in technology hype. The findings from the report indicate more traditional activities like email and search engine marketing continue to be important for driving business. Social marketing techniques may make headlines, but it's not yet making sales for most retailers.