Marketing Pilgrim's "Email Marketing" Channel

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Forrester Study: Email and Search, Not Social, Drives Sales Online


I can hear the din of social media rock stars and gurus around the globe howling at the notion that social is not a primary sales driver in the eCommerce world. Heretic!

Usually people get the most riled up when something they hang their hat on is called out and shown in the light to be a lot less spectacular than when pitched with hyperbole and emotion.

The report from Forrester called “The Purchase Path of Online Buyers in 2012” (link is to page to purchase full report which Marketing Pilgrim receives no payment whatsoever) basically says the the most effective tools in the online space to drive sales are the equivalent of online hammer and nails: email marketing and search marketing. Here are the main points but without the report’s detail.

  1. Paid search matters most for new customers
  2. Email matters most for repeat customers
  3. Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers

Commence screaming and feigned outrage.

Need a chart to look at and further lather you up? Here you go. Look at the impact of email vs. social media on repeat customers.

I suspect that among the cool crowd these findings will be anathema. But let’s be realistic. Email and paid search haven’t succeeded like they have for so long because they don’t work. It’s like TV. While there are some who are ignorant enough to use phrases like ‘Everyone watches TV online now” or “No one watches traditional TV anymore”, TV is still doing fine with advertisers. Why? Some might say it’s a habit and it’s what agencies do but a smart marketer wouldn’t fall prey to slick sales presentations meant to serve the agency rather than the client. That’s how you lose your job. TV is still used because in the right measure and with the right nuance it works. Same for email and paid search.

So is social media just a bunch of hype and is useless? Not by a long shot and its influence will continue to grow over time. By next year it could be found that it is indeed influencing sales. But for now, the hype is far outpacing the reality and smart marketers should remember the basics.

Basic blocking and tackling works. Are you doing the basics well?