Selling Online: Email and Search are Key Drivers [Study]
Forrester’s recently published The Purchase Path of Online Buyers offers insights that aren’t surprising to a data geek like me. Email and search are the key drivers of online sales, with social contributing only a tiny bit.
The link above is to the paid report, but if you don’t want to buy it, the bottom line is that smart retailers are using paid search and sophisticated email marketing to drive sales and repeat business.
Last week I was in Boston speaking at DemandCon, which is all about accelerating the sales and marketing funnel as well as the MarketingProfs B2B Forum. While there, I was fortunate to spend an evening with two of my favorite people (not to mention two of the smartest people I know), Tom and Tamsen Webster. It’s inevitable that when geeks like us spend time together, we talk about things like marketing and strategy.
One of the most interesting parts of our discussion that evening was about Diane Von Furstenberg and her marketing strategy, which involves different email tactics depending on where the customer is in the sales funnel. I won’t spoil what I know will be a fabulous case study by the brilliant Mrs. Webster, but suffice it to say that email marketing should be a cornerstone of any online sales marketing strategy, and tailoring your content in ways that touch customers in different ways depending on where they are in your sales cycle—even more important. (Note to Tamsen: No pressure on that case study).
Back to email and search. The main points of the Forrester study are simply:
- To get new customers, search matters (both paid and organic);
- To influence repeat customers to come back and buy more, email matters;
- Social channels are not meaningful sales drivers. At least not yet.
Here’s a chart that shows some of the above and if you’re interested in purchasing the Forrester report, we’re not compensated in any way for writing about it.
These results are not surprising to us. However, it’s important to note that while social might not be a huge driver, today, of online sales, that doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable. In fact, I’d hypothesize that one of the reasons social isn’t a big driver of sales is because so many brands are doing a poor job of integrating social into the sales cycle and/or because they’re doing a crummy job of measuring (or not measuring at all) the impact social might have.
I say that based on personal experience, not conjecture, because we’ve got clients in the B2C space and are using Google Analytics Social to track our social conversions. And we’re watching those numbers rise. Here’s a screenshot from a recent report to show you what I mean. We look at a number of different metrics in Google Analytics. One is Conversions from Social. As you can see from the screenshot below, for this particular client, social is converting for the last 30 days to the tune of about $4,600 (talk about justification for our fees in this regard):
And, because I was lucky enough to attend the always fantastic Christopher Penn’s session on Google Analytics at MarketingProfs B2B Form, I also know how important diving deeper into your analytics is. In this case, looking at what’s called Assisted Conversions, which show that in the last thirty days, social media and referrals (which is probably partially the result of the blogger outreach campaigns we’ve been engaged in) have accounted for some $7,200 in sales. Compare that to email for that particular period (which is running at about $1,000), and social and blogger campaigns are performing brilliantly. As an aside, there’s way more to this data than I’ve addressed here, so if you’re not yet using this data as part of your strategy drivers, start.
And if you’d like to look at this differently, check out this overview which shows even the biggest doubters the value (or lack thereof) of social channels as they relates to sales.
So the value here is clear. If you’re selling online, search is critical – both paid and organic. This is an area we never skimp on. Always make sure we’re working with the best and brightest, and the proof will be in the pudding. Email is also critical, and continuing to learn, experiment, evolve and fine-tune your email strategies is, without question, a critical component of success. And lastly, paying attention to social, (which often means working with people who know what they’re doing) can lead to sales as well.
And your data? Every step of the way it’ll show you exactly how you’re doing. Are you focusing on online sales? What results are you seeing and what’s your secret? We’d love to hear what you’ve got to say.
Image by Fosforix via Creative Commons