Home  › Social › Social Media

Social Media a Meh for E-Commerce Traffic

  |  May 23, 2013   |  Comments

Is social media a source of traffic to e-commerce sites and are these platforms capable of generating substantial purchase conversions?

Despite the intense marketer excitement about social media, Monetate finds that it's not a prime source of traffic to e-commerce sites, nor of purchase conversions.

Its Ecommerce Quarterly Report is based on anonymous aggregate data from Monetate's customers. The EQ analyzes a random sample of over 500 million online shopping interactions using same-store data across each calendar quarter.

In the current report on Q1 2013, the social media sites analyzed by Monetate - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, and LinkedIn - represented a mere 1.55 percent of all traffic to e-commerce websites, with a conversion rate of 0.71 percent. By contrast, direct URL entry and visits with no known referrer represented close to half of the more than 500 million visits analyzed.

The report does note that visits from native apps, for example, a mobile Facebook app, could be read as having no referrer.

Blair Lyon, VP of marketing, says that, later this year, Monetate will roll out the ability to test, optimize, and personalize mobile apps, and let customers synchronize their apps with their websites. "That will give us some additional data points," he says.

Brands that benchmark their social media efforts against direct response channels are taking the wrong approach, according to Mitch Joel, president of digital marketing agency Twist Image. Writing in the report, he says marketers should use social media to build awareness, so that when consumers are ready to click on search results or enter a URL into a browser, the brand will be top-of-mind.

In the report, Jay Baer, president of social media and content marketing consultancy Convince and Convert, adds, "Social media are inherently additive pieces of the conversion funnel, rather than causative." In other words, marketers should not expect social sites to send traffic directly to e-commerce.


Traffic from most social networks was flat or declining quarter-over-quarter, Monetate found, with the exception of Pinterest. Pinterest sent more than double the traffic to e-commerce sites that Twitter did, and the average order was $80.54, compared to $71.26 from Facebook, the next-highest source of traffic.

While most traffic to e-commerce sites is still dominated by traditional desktops and laptops, tablets showed the best conversion rate, compared to traditional devices and smartphones.


Although phone traffic was smallest and hardest to convert, Monetate found that mobile phones provided the highest average order size, with Android smartphones and iPhones almost on par. Phone order sizes slightly surpassed orders on Mac computers, while average order sizes on Android tablets crept up close to those on iPads.


A comparison of the add-to-cart rate by referrer found that the proportions of traffic contributed by email, search, and social media have remained relatively unchanged since the first EQ report in Q1 2012: email still rules.

"A lot of people are saying that email is dead. But social is improving at a decent percentage, but it is not driving direct add-to-cart referring rates the way that everyone has promised," Lyon says. Attribution to social media is complex, he adds. "There is attribution, but it's not last-touch attribution. There's been a lot of floundering about, and I don't think marketers have honed their craft in social media the way they have in email and search."

pro-rank-tracker-logoPro Rank Tracker is a cutting-edge ranking tracking tool for keeping you up-to-date with all the latest changes in the rankings of your websites and videos.


Susan Kuchinskas

Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get ClickZ Social newsletters delivered right to your inbox. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

US Consumer Device Preference Report

US Consumer Device Preference Report
Traditionally desktops have shown to convert better than mobile devices however, 2015 might be a tipping point for mobile conversions! Download this report to find why mobile users are more important then ever.

E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle

E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle
Have you ever wondered what factors influence online spending or why shoppers abandon their cart? This data-rich infogram offers actionable insight into creating a more seamless online shopping experience across the multiple devices consumers are using.




  • SEO Specialist
    SEO Specialist (Marcel Digital) - ChicagoSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist   Marcel Digital is an award winning digital marketing...
  • SEO / SEM Manager
    SEO / SEM Manager (CustomInk) - FairfaxAre you a friendly, motivated, and inquisitive individual? Are you a positive, out-going leader? Are you...
  • SEO Analyst
    SEO Analyst (XO Group) - New YorkSEO Analyst @ XO Group About this Job, You and Our Team: The XO Group SEO Team is looking for you, a passionate...