The huge amounts of time and money poured into Twitter, Facebook, and other social media still fail to deliver sales, while results from email campaigns far outpace social media. Thatís because social media are fraught with roadblocks to tracking actual sales, partly because the anonymous nature of user IDs makes it nearly impossible to associate a user's account with their shopping cart.
According to Custoraís E-Commerce Customer Acquisition Snapshot for Q2 of 2013, the difference in customer acquisition rates between email and other social media is outpaced only by results from organic search. There are likely to be several reasons for these findings, but the take-away may be that social media simply aren't a great way to make sales.
That doesnít mean social media are worthless for all things, but in terms of driving customers to make decisions, social media have proven their worthlessness.
Of course, the problem may lie in the fact that itís nearly impossible to track social media profiles to actual sales because so many social media IDs have no real world relationship with actual peopleís credit cards. A notable exception to this is Google Plus, (which Custoraís report didnít include), a platform that puts significant effort into validating its users identities. Email benefits from the fact that an email address for most retail consumers is the same ID they use to communicate with the rest of their world, and is the lowest common denominator for their social media sites.
Even if a consumer does respond to a sales offer in Facebook, they are likely to move to the retailerís site and provide their real-world information to complete the sale. That transition from Facebook to a shopping cart may be lost in the transition between the sites even if it is the actual basis for the sale.
Social media are "rarely the only touch point that results in someone becoming a lead or a customer, and many organizations still don't have the necessary analytics to tie leads and customers back to the first touch point that brought them in," Jeff Russo, product marketing manager for HubSpot, a provider of social media marketing tools, told me.
Itís that link between social media and purchaser that is missing, and HubSpot believes they have a handle on it with what they call their "social inbox," which creates a closed loop between marketing efforts in multiple social platforms and the sale. Tracking social media interaction through links to specific landing pages can help identify which social media events successfully generate sales. As Russo continued:
Marketers who can tie sales back to every touch point and every channel have a better understanding of how their time spent on social media actually yields new customers (even if they don't buy on their first encounter with your company). Again, it really is a matter of technology.
Itís obvious not every online retailer has the technology in place to track sales against their social media efforts, and thatís not likely to change significantly. The question of whether investments in social media campaigns are profitable remains largely unquantified.
On the other hand, according to Custoraís report: ďCustomer acquisition via email has quadrupled over the last four years.Ē That finding by itself should tell marketers where to put their marketing efforts and dollars to achieve their highest returns.