Buy Now! Ranking Digital ‘Touchpoints’ for Ecommerce

Forrester made some noise recently with new research around social media and online transactions.  The gist of it is that social media and ecommerce don’t mix as well as other touchpoints when it comes to driving online sales.  Forrester notes in the chart below that less than 1 percent of the online transactions they tracked could be traced to a social media post.

This is a little distressing for retailers with large marketing investments in social.   The research suggests that social is usually not the first touchpoint people have before going to a company’s online store to make a purchase.  Sure, social is still a fantastic way to build awareness, service customers and build meaningful dialogue – all worthy endeavors for any brand, but as a means to drive sales online – not so much, yet.

Let’s remember, this research is looking at ecommerce.  Decisions for cars, high-end luxury goods and other big-ticket items generally not purchased online may still be heavily influenced by what people see on brands’ social pages.  A recent article in Direct Marketing News describes how some high school kids are selecting colleges by combing through a school’s Facebook page to determine what the social scene looks like.  Luckily for parents, there is no BUY NOW! button on that Miami party school’s website.

But still, it’s all about touchpoints and how well they’re integrated.  Whether new or repeat customers are finding you first through email, display ads, organic search or otherwise, it’s likely that it will take more than a single touchpoint to get someone to shop your online store and click the sacred BUY NOW! button.  After all, this is why you have developed a thoughtful ‘marketing mix,’ right?

Forrester Research on Purchase Paths

We should note (happily) that our friend, good old email, is ranked the #1 or #2 influencer for online transactions for repeat customers and ranks higher than social for new customers, too.  And, it’s always a best practice to include your other touchpoints — web and social links — inside your email newsletters.

So, the jury is still out on whether Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, et al. becomes a driving force for ecommerce.  In the meantime, if driving online sales transactions is a high priority for your company, marketers should approach social cautiously and realize that it probably won’t move the sales needle very far, if at all — for now.

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