Report: Fewer Than 1% Of Sales Can Be Tracked Back To Social Media

social-media-network-peopleA new Forrester report titled “The Purchase Path of Online Buyers In 2012″ analyzes conversion paths on 77,000 orders to determine what sources returned the most revenue. While the report found a handful of high revenue sources (paid search, organic search, email) one clear cut source fell behind the rest: social media. The data showed that fewer than 1% of transactions could be traced back to social links.

Forrester suggests that the low numbers could be due to measurement periods required (a 30-day attribution model was used in this report) and company sizes.

It should be noted that the research was performed in conjunction with GSI Commerce, a company who handles large scale e-commerce solutions. Social media has been known to have more dramatic results on SMB sales and this report lacks data from a small to midsize e-commerce site.

The top performing sources from the report were direct visits, organic search, paid search and email campaigns. From a new customer standpoint direct visits, organic search and paid search helped with each making up 20%, 16% and 11% of transactions respectively. For existing customers (an area where many think social would shine) direct, email and organic search comprised of 20%, 13% and 6% of all transactions respectively.

Overall customers viewed social media favorably, but use the medium as more of a discovery method.

Based on a survey from 2011, 48% of respondents think social media is a great way to discover products & brands, while only 17% have bought something based on a friend’s post.

Additionally, 40% of respondents think that social media is a great way to discover sales and promotions.

For the full report, see Forrester Research.

Related Topics: Channel: Retail | E-Commerce | Social Media Marketing | Statistics: Social Media | Top News

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About The Author: is the Director of Marketing for Cypress North, a company that specializes in social media and search marketing services and web-based application development. He has been in the Internet marketing industry for 6+ years and specializes in Social Media Marketing. You can also find Greg on Twitter (@gregfinn) or LinkedIn.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • David Burdon

    I guess in the end the truth will out. I do see ecommerce sales originating from social media. But they’re drawfed by sales from search – both paid and free.

  • http://www.postlinearity.com gregorylent

    i’d like an honest study of what % of sales come from advertising, in any form :-) ..

  • http://serialsmallbusiness.com/ Graham Hunter

    Hmm, Interesting facts…but of course social won’t fair well if you’re using last click attribution. Unless the person clicks through from your site (probably a minority of social users) you have no way of attributing an “assist” to social or not. I mean let me know if i’m off track here but as I understand it not even GA multi-channel funnels can tell you that.

  • Andrew Gaukrodger

    30 days is not long enough to measure a relationship channel and totally agree with @grahamhunter:disqus that last click method doesn’t show true value of social media.

  • http://www.expertcomputing.co.uk/ Web design seo Preston

    It’s kind of the same with offline advertsing. A billboard may not directly lead you to buy, but may indirectly in which case the cause of the sale would not be accurate.

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    Measuring the ROI of social media is like measuring the ROI of your telephone. It is a means of communication which increases brand awareness – but it does not drive direct sales in the way that organic search and ppc do. There is no simple way to measure how many more organic or AdWords clicks your listings get because someone knows about you from social media, or blogs, or any other source.

    What you can do is measure increased traffic and sales using the timelines method explained by Olivier Blanchard @TheBrandBuilder and apply common sense. If more people know your name, brand or product, more people are going to click on YOUR listings than will if they never heard of you.

    We need to realize that search is going to be used less as people can get answers on social media and blogs from their friends, family and people they believe are experts. They may click through from those sources, but they may just type in your URL and you can NOT tell where they found you.

    Success comes from consistent quality and service. Businesses that don’t provide them both gradually die and those that DO focus on them consistently grow through personal recommendations which have the highest conversion rate of all – and no – you can’t measure that either.

  • http://www.powercutmedia.in/ Arun Kumar

    So true. I second this. Traditional advertisement is a thing of past. It might put your product into peoples’ minds but the ultimate choice would be the product/service recommended by friends/social media. I find myself doing that so I expect others too must be using this to get faster and reliable answers!

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