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Social Channel Yields Dismal Share Of Online Holiday Sales

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 12/16/2013

Latest research shows that just two percent of online holiday retail sales originated from a post on a social media site, despite heavy social channel engagement by online retailers.

Retail social media activity typically spikes during the holiday shopping season. Across nearly every product category, brand retailers fill Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites with holiday posts and offers, hoping to inspire consumers to choose their e-commerce store as an online shopping destination.

Social Media Role in Holiday Retail Sales

But according to a recent Ad Age report, the social channel simply isn't delivering the volume of conversions retailers expect during the holidays. Citing research from the e-commerce analytics firm, Custora, Ad Age reported that just 2% of unique purchases made since November 1st have originated from social media.

Instead, 26% of online sales originated from organic search, followed by direct visits (25%), email marketing (17%) and paid search (16%). Of the sales that originated from the social space, the vast majority (80%) came from Facebook, with Pinterest (15%) and Twitter (5%) coming in a distant second and third.

"It is fair to say -- and perhaps pretty surprising -- that clicks from social very rarely directly lead to orders," said Custora co-founder, Corey Pierson, adding that the highest performing social channel retailers still only get approximately 10% of their holiday sales from social posts.

Although overall e-commerce grew by 16% on Black Friday and 18% on Cyber Monday compared to 2012, sales originating from social media grew by 8% and 10% respectively on the same shopping days. Email marketing appeared to be this year's big winner, initiating 23% of online sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Social media engagement has value for online retailers. But the big lesson for small, online businesses may be the ongoing value of organic search and email marketing best practices. By crafting effective email marketing campaigns and cultivating SERP rankings for key terms, online retailers can improve sales during the holidays and throughout the year.

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