We regularly hear that one of marketers’ biggest frustrations is that they can’t measure the ROI on their social media investment. What may be even more disconcerting is that as marketers increase the size of their social media budgets, new Forrester research shows that online purchases are being driving by other marketing formats. However, the Forrester report does point to a strength for social media – discovery.

Forrester studied consumers who made online purchases this year. The analysis covered 77,000 orders made by both new and repeat customers. Not surprisingly, customers make their way to sites from a variety of touch points. For both new and repeat customers, the path to purchase stems from organic search, paid search and email. Overall, search accounts for 39% of new customer transactions. Analysts were able to trace just 1% of transactions to social media links.

For repeat customers, the search effect was smaller. With respect to repeat shoppers with one touch point, the following links were tracked:

  • Direct visit 20%
  • Email 13%
  • Organic search 6%
  • Paid search 5%
  • Others (comparison shopping engines) 5%
  • Social <1%

Regarding these numbers, Forrester Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru says, “In spite of changes to the interactive marketing landscape and the growing number of shoppers using mobile and tablet devices to access content, core elements of web marketing continue to be effective.”

Forrester also pointed out that nearly half of consumers report that they learn about new products and services and company through social media. Gradually, consumers may also begin to make online purchases by linking from social media but for now marketers should not overlook the importance of email and search in online commerce.

To understand what motivates online shoppers, check out the Audience Interests & Intent report available from the Research Store at ad-ology.com.

[Source: Less Than 1% of Online Purchases Come from Social Channels. Forrester.com. 25 Sept. 2012. Web. 8 Oct. 2012]