Driving Sales: Email or Social Media?

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EmailImage credit: Christopher Penn

Guest post written by Manish Kataria  founder of Bird’s Eye Digital.

At a time when social media is all the rage, entrepreneurs often forget about one of the most powerful & effective permission-based marketing tools available: Email.

Because email is boring and old fashioned, right?  Well don’t count it out just yet – at least when it comes to eCommerce.  So before you prioritize building an email opt-in list behind acquiring Facebook likes & Twitter followers, consider this. In their most recent eCommerce Quarterly report, Monetate analyzed a random sample of more than 500 million online shopping experiences in Q1 2013 and discovered the following:

  • Social media represented just 1.55% of all eCommerce traffic to top sites, trailing email at 2.82%, with both not surprisingly far behind search-driven traffic
  • At a conversion rate of 3.19% in the same time period, email beat out both search (1.95%) and social media (.71%).
  • With 9.02 average page views per referral, email-driven page views match those of search, with both almost double those of social (4.6).

This data actually makes a lot of sense if you consider some of email’s advantages as a sales tool:

  • In a world of advertising clutter, a shopper opted in to receive your marketing messages is one of the most highly receptive to your advertising.
  • Email is uniquely powerful for customer segmentation, custom-tailored relevant messaging, and delivering that message at the best time of the buying process.
  • The cost has fallen drastically in recent years – and if you’re using a back-end eCommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce, there are several low-cost (or even free) powerful email marketing tools available.

Keep in mind however that as effective as email can be, social media is still an important part of the eCommerce equation. For one, many intangible benefits of social media – such as boosting SEO & lead generation – can’t be measured using strict, last-click attributions.  For example, a Facebook fan may simply be at an earlier point in the customer acquisition funnel than an email opt-in. Also, this report doesn’t distinguish shoppers’ demographic information or retailers’ industry verticals.

More importantly, with billions of engaged users worldwide, and impressive referred average order values (most notably Pinterest at $80.54), social media is poised to yield incredible opportunities for savvy marketers.  Moving forward, expect to see an increasing number of offerings to help web store owners more effectively and directly leverage social – including one from us at Bird’s Eye Digital.

So what can we take away from all this? As exciting as the social commerce prospects are, it’s no time to lag behind with your email marketing.  It can be challenging to build a quality email opt-in list and time intensive to analyze the data for the right execution strategy, but the ROI will be worth it! And in today’s increasingly complex landscape, incorporating both your email & social strategies into an integrated 360 marketing approach will give you the best chance at beating out the competition!

Manish Kataria is the founder of digital marketing & development company Bird’s Eye Digital.  He has previously been in various roles from strategy to business development at some of NYC’s top interactive agencies, and holds degrees in Finance & Marketing from NYU’s Stern School of Business.