Social Media Has Little Effect On Online Purchasing Decisions.

It’s a proven fact that social media marketing informs and drives online retail purchases.

Well, that’s what we’ve always been led to believe. However, a recent study by Forrester Research might just force to reconsider you’re long-held beliefs. Contrary to the popular urban myth, it would appear that social media marketing has little if any effect on the online purchasing decisions of browsers. If businesses want to convert browsers into shoppers they are far better off sticking to the tried and tested practices of email and search marketing. It seems the old ways are still the best.

The report, which was commissioned jointly by Forrester Research and GSI Commerce, gathered and analysed data from online retailers over a 6 week period leading up to Christmas last year.

Surprisingly the study found that only 2% of online sales were directly attributable to social media. In fact it found that the most effective way of turning internet users into purchasers was email and search advertising. According to executive vice president for marketing and strategy at GSI Commerce, Fiona Dias, the social media ‘s influence in changing people’s purchasing behaviour has been vastly over-rated: social media is effective for distributing and cascading information about short-term deals, but for actual online purchases, nothing beats the old  tried and trusted marketing methods.

“It’s been a mystery to me why the media is excited about social media. From a retail and commerce perspective, it seems to have no effect. The best analogy is in the South (of the USA): a lot of people go to church on Sunday. If you go with the theory that you should market where the people are, then you should be running off to market during church services. Facebook has the same analogy. Buying things from retailers is maybe 10th on the list of things people want to do on Facebook.”

The data proved to her satisfaction that the best form of advertising was still traditional email and search marketing.

Most of the consumers who took part in the study had been exposed to some form of advertising before they went ahead and made their purchases. 70% of all transactions for hard goods, like electrical appliances, and 82% of all soft goods purchases, like clothing, occurred only after the potential customers had been engaged by some form of interactive marketing tactic. 40% of hard goods purchases and 60% of soft goods transactions came directly as a result of email and search marketing.

Is there a moral to this study? Well, yes in a sense there is. Businesses shouldn’t necessarily believe all they’re told, and certainly shouldn’t put all their eggs into just the one, single basket. Social media marketing has its uses, particularly for informing and advising customers of the advantages of certain products and services, but at the end of the day traditional advertising still seems to be most effective method for generating sales.

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