Think Social Is Everything? You’re Not Following

This April, 77,000 consumer orders were monitored by analyst Sucharita Mulpuru at Forrester, probably the world’s most credible research agency. The aim was to measure the influence of different digital tactics on purchase behaviour. Unsurprisingly, one of their objectives was to measure the influence of social media.

The results have just been published in ‘The Purchase Path Of Online Buyers In 2012’. Here are the findings, in a nutshell.

The report shows that social isn’t the be-all and end-all of digital marketing and email marketing reigns supreme.

My colleague Andrew Gretton, Development Lead here at dotMailer was not surprised by Forrester’s favourable view of email over social media. “At the front line of email marketing, we watch millions of recipients engaging directly with campaigns every day – clicking directly on products they want to buy. So we’ve always believed that email is the clearest and most powerful sales-driving channel online.”

So – what did the Forester report tell us?



  • The big story is that social alone, is not a significant driver of online purchases – barely 1% of 77,000 transactions could be traced back to social links*.
  • 33% of new customers and 48% of repeat customers visit multiple touch points before purchasing – and email has usually been an influencing factor.
  • The biggest drivers for online purchases overall are search and email marketing.
  • 30% of transactions started with a click on an email marketing campaign. Email is the most important channel for repeat customers. This research is supported by Forrester’s recent anecdotal interviews with retailers.
  • Paid search is vital for new customers. New buyers after a specific brand or product are more receptive to paid search than your loyal customers
  • 39% of transactions from new customers came from search – paid or organic
  • “Direct traffic is critical to sales. While explicit interactive marketing tactics are critical to sales, a significant portion of buyers visit sites directly by typing in the retailer’s URL.”
  • Direct web address input was found to influence a surprising 30% of transactions

Forrester’s recommendation for retailers?




  • Continue focusing on [improving and testing] paid search and [acquisition and optimising] email programs
  • Actively promote URLs across channels, wherever possibleto maximise recall and fully expoit this driver
  • Consider the full path to a completed transaction – so the first touchpoints aren’t underestimated, and are given full credit.

You can buy the full report at for $499.

So, does this match your experiences? Disagree with the findings? Let me know your thoughts below or tweet us @dotMailer – I’d love to discuss this further with retailers who’ve had related experiences.

*The only caveat here is that the research was done over a 30 day window, so social certainly isn’t a quick win, if it’s a driving factor for sales at all.

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