If you don’t want an empty shopping cart on your e-commerce site, don’t rely heavily on advertising in Facebook and Pinterest. 

For big sites, at least, social media only drives less than 1 percent of online purchases.

After analyzing 77,000 online purchases, that’s the salient conclusion from a Forrester study, “The Purchase Path of Online Buyers In 2012,” according to published reports.

Forrester’s study coincided with at least one other report that online spending that year continued its fast growth.

Forrester reports the best Web sources of new customers:

— Direct visits to Web sites

— Organic search

— Paid search

Best sources of existing customers:

— Direct site visits

— E-mail

— Organic search

This is not to say social media is a waste of time and money. Consumers generally like Facebook, Pinterest and other social media.

But the sites are mainly used to learn about products and services – not for selling.

Multiple channels

Forrester also found that about 50 percent of repeat customers and 33 percent of new customers make a buying decision after experiencing branding messages from multiple sources.

A company’s Web site typically accounts for 30 percent of e-commerce sales.

Thirty-nine percent of sales result from organic and paid search. Forrester explains that organic and paid search are helpful for marketers because such customers already know what they want to buy. This means the key to internet dominance is integration.

Nearly 33 percent of repeat business is generated by e-mail. So, it behooves a business to try to obtain customer e-mail addresses, and to use any customer information to target specific sales messages.

Forrester also found that about 50 percent of repeat customers and 33 percent of new customers make a buying decision after experiencing branding messages from multiple sources.

Marketing automation

In my experience, this is why sophisticated marketers use integrated marketing automation.

Forrester believes social media drives more customers for small business. But small-business wasn’t included in the study.

Keep in mind that Facebook is experiencing fewer users and a drop in consumer satisfaction.

Furthermore, another Forrester study ranks Facebook last in “business value” among 13 digital options by 395 marketers in the U.S. and Canada.

So, while social media remains popular, traditional online marketing – search, e-mail, and Web sites – remain the most-effective complements to public relations, broadcasting, and other advertising mediums.

(Note: The Forrester report costs $499. I’m including the link for your convenience, but The Biz Coach does not receive any payment for the referral.)

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“E-commerce businesses, even e-commerce specialists, have yet to realize that the WWW is first and foremost an emotional experience. Few websites reflect this important priority.”

-Grant Fairley


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.