Only 5 percent of holiday shoppers said a social media channel primarily influenced their decision to visit one of the top 40 retailers’ websites, according to a customer satisfaction survey.
In contrast, ForeSee Results found that 19 percent of those surveyed came to a top retailer's website because of a promotional e-mail and 8 percent because of search engine results.
"Social is growing. As far as a retail channel - a direct driver of retail sales, it's not the key one by any means at this point," said Kevin Ertell, VP, retail strategy at ForeSee. The percentage of those influenced by social media to visit one of the top online retailers remained unchanged from 2009, he said.
With that in mind, the measurement firm advised retailers: "tried-and-true online marketing tactics should not be abandoned or ignored in favor of newer media."
Those trends were part of ForeSee Results' annual holiday e-retail satisfaction index of the top 40 Internet retailers.
Customers gave the highest satisfaction ratings to Amazon.com and Netflix, both of which topped the index last year. Scoring lowest on the index were Sears.com and TigerDirect.com.
Shoppers were surveyed on four factors: price, merchandise, website functionality, and content.
"With a couple of exceptions, website experience was more important to people than price," Ertell said. As a result, those companies that emphasized price over website functionality may not have taken the most profitable approach.
Site experience was the top priority for shoppers at Netflix, Costco, Dell, eBay, Home Depot, J.C. Penney, QVC, Sears, Target, Toys R Us, Walmart, and others.
For shoppers at Cabela's, HP, HSN, Office Depot, and Office Max, price was a top priority.
The ForeSee survey found that content is a top priority for shoppers at only two of the top sites: Victoria's Secret and William-Sonoma.
And merchandise was an important factor for website visitors at Best Buy, Gap, L.L Bean, Macy's, Overstock, QVC, Sony Style, Staples, Symantec, Tiger Direct, and Victoria's Secret.
The index, which rates customer satisfaction on the basis of 1 to 100 – with 100 representing the best score – found that overall customer satisfaction with the online retailers totaled 78 points, one point lower than last year.
Nearly 10,000 survey responses were collected from Nov. 29 through Dec. 15, 2010 from shoppers who had visited the top 40 retail websites within the prior 14 days.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.
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