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Email Is Crushing Twitter, Facebook for Selling Stuff Online

Posted by Dean Asher on 7/10/13 11:00 PM
Topics: social media, facebook, Marketing to Students

Learn why email is more effective, and the prospects of social media business models for your store, from Marcus Wohlsen's article Email Is Crushing Twitter, Facebook for Selling Stuff Online on

In 2013, no company can expect to be taken seriously if it’s not on Facebook or Twitter. An endless stream (no pun intended) of advice from marketing consultants warns businesses that they need to “get” social or risk becoming like companies a century ago that didn’t think they needed telephones.

Despite the hype that inevitably clings to the newfangled, however, it’s relatively antique tech that appears to be far more important for selling stuff online. A new report from marketing data outfit Custora found that over the past four years, online retailers have quadrupled the rate of customers acquired through email to nearly 7 percent.

Facebook over that same period barely registers as a way to make a sale, and the tiny percentage of people who do connect and buy over Facebook has stayed flat. Twitter, meanwhile, doesn’t register at all. By far the most popular way to get customers was “organic search,” according to the report, followed by “cost per click” ads (in both cases, read: Google).

Custora came up with its figures by analyzing data from 72 million customers shopping on 86 different retailer sites. They tracked where customers were clicking from (email, Twitter, Google, etc.) and what and how much they bought, not just on that visit but for the next two years.

Over those two years, Custora found that customers who came to retailers from search were more than 50 percent more valuable than average. In other words, they were more likely to shop more and spend more. Email customers were nearly 11 percent more valuable than average. Facebook customers were just about average. Twitter customers, meanwhile, were 23 percent less valuable than average during the two years following that first click.

Email, on the other hand, has a certain unfair advantage in that shoppers getting the emails have already given up their addresses to a site, suggesting they already have some prior relationship with that retailer. Still, despite the avalanche of spam we all get, it’s easy to see how the staying power and greater potential for personalization of a medium without a 140-character limit gives email distinct advantages.

To be fair, Google had a roughly 10-year head start to turn search into sales. It’s hard to imagine that in a decade that social media won’t be a more important channel for selling stuff. Already its “product cards” provide a very direct way for Twitter to act as a storefront. Businesses shouldn’t abandon social just yet. But if they had to pick, that old-timey mailing list may trump tweets for a long time to come.

— Marcus Wohlsen, Email Is Crushing Twitter, Facebook for Selling Stuff Online
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Which channel has your store found most effective at converting customers into buyers? Share your experience in the comments section.

About Dean Asher

Dean Asher is a former copywriter with MBS. Though he no longer writes for us, he is still proud of having helped this blog continue to evolve as an industry-leading resource of news and original content.

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