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Source: MarketingDaily article by Sarah Mahoney

For all the buzz created by social media, a new study shows retailers may be barking up the wrong tree: ForeSee Results reports that social media drove just 5% of visitors to retail Web sites. On the other hand, "promotional emails, search engine results, and even advertising are more influential," it says.

In fact, the study found that more traditional marketing techniques not only generated more traffic, they also deliver better-quality customers. "Some of the most satisfied site visitors arrived at the site because of previous familiarity with a brand, promotional emails, word-of-mouth, and product review websites," it says in its report.

Survey respondents were asked what factors were the primary influence to a store's Web site, and 38% say it was familiarity with the brand, while 19% say it was due to promotional emails. Search engine results, word of mouth, and ads (newspaper, TV, radio or magazine) were each named by 8%. Just 5% said social media was the primary influence. Some 3% cited blogs, while 2% named both shopping comparison Web sites, and product review Web sites.

The study uses the same methodology of the American Customer Satisfaction Index and is based on a sample of 10,000 adults.

ForeSee, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., also asked participants to name their preferred method of communication with a retailer, and overall, only 8% named social media. Mobile is even less popular, with only 5% saying they prefer to communicate that way. Emails, with 64%, were by far the most popular, followed by snail mail, 25%; Web sites, 21%; and TV, 11%.

"Every retailer should know how many customers are influenced by promotional emails, advertising on Facebook or word-of-mouth recommendations, and furthermore, they should know which group is most likely to buy," Larry Freed, President/CEO of ForeSee Results, says in the report.

"Serious thought needs to be given to finding out whether social media is worth the investment for their business, and then if the answer is yes, they need to make the most of it by making sure that interactions on social media meet the needs and expectations of customers. Otherwise, the effort is wasted and could even be detrimental to the business."