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Social Media Drives a Small Share of Online Consumers to Retail Sites

Largest portion of social media traffic comes from Facebook

Digital resources have upended the traditional linear path-to-purchase model, with consumers now relying on a number of resources to shop for and purchase goods online. Social media has certainly played a role in that process, but research from L2 Think Tank found that little traffic was flowing from social media to retail sites.

Among all traffic sources, search engines dominated, leading 35.5% of traffic to retailers, followed by direct web browsing (33.9%), referrals (18.4%) and email (8.7%). Social media pushed 2.4% of traffic, above only display ads, which led 1.1% of visitors to retail sites.

Despite this, retailers are clearly investing resources in establishing a presence on various social media. L2 Think Tank found that the adoption by retailers of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram had climbed between 2012 and 2013. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube saw almost complete adoption rates, while the use of Pinterest and Instagram was at 90%. Participation on foursquare, meanwhile, dropped to 10% from 28% last year.

Different social media platforms have had varying levels of success leading traffic to retailers, depending in large part on how various social media are used by shoppers in different retail categories. Facebook’s influence was most pronounced in the watches and jewelry retail category, accounting for 76% of traffic coming from social media. YouTube’s effectiveness was greatest in the beauty and skincare category, driving 27% of traffic, likely because consumers on the hunt for those products are also watching make-up and skincare “how to” videos. Pinterest, meanwhile, showed success in the home and gift category, responsible for 31% of traffic from social media.


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