A new Forrester report titled “The Purchase Path of Online Buyers In 2012″ analyzes conversion paths on 77,000 orders to determine what sources returned the most revenue. While the report found a handful of high revenue sources (paid search, organic search, email) one clear cut source fell behind the rest: social media. The data showed that fewer than 1% of transactions could be traced back to social links.
Forrester suggests that the low numbers could be due to measurement periods required (a 30-day attribution model was used in this report) and company sizes.
It should be noted that the research was performed in conjunction with GSI Commerce, a company who handles large scale e-commerce solutions. Social media has been known to have more dramatic results on SMB sales and this report lacks data from a small to midsize e-commerce site.
The top performing sources from the report were direct visits, organic search, paid search and email campaigns. From a new customer standpoint direct visits, organic search and paid search helped with each making up 20%, 16% and 11% of transactions respectively. For existing customers (an area where many think social would shine) direct, email and organic search comprised of 20%, 13% and 6% of all transactions respectively.
Overall customers viewed social media favorably, but use the medium as more of a discovery method.
Based on a survey from 2011, 48% of respondents think social media is a great way to discover products & brands, while only 17% have bought something based on a friend’s post.
Additionally, 40% of respondents think that social media is a great way to discover sales and promotions.