Q4 ’13 E-Commerce: Search Still Dominates Visits; Email Retains Conversion Crown

Monetate-Ecommerce-Traffic-Share-by-Source-Q42012-Q42013-Feb2014Don’t sleep on search. According to Monetate’s Q4 e-commerce report [download page], search still vastly outperforms email and social in delivering traffic to e-commerce websites, and its influence may in fact be growing. The study finds that among the sample of clients measured, search accounted for 32.6% of website visits, up from 29.8% a year earlier, and leaps and bounds ahead of both email (2.7%) and social (1.1%). Of course, social’s fractional share has to be put in context; the study measures direct traffic (last-click attribution), which tends to underestimate social’s influence by a considerable degree.

Meanwhile, this latest study provides more evidence that email’s role as an e-commerce traffic driver is diminishing. Indeed, email’s share of e-commerce visits (2.7% in Q4) was down markedly from the year-earlier period (4.4%). Monetate found a similar trend in Q3; because the researchers use a different set of clients each quarter, the exact figures differ from one report to the next, but the same trend being found across at least two reports is instructive.

Of course, email shines in other areas. The conversion rate of email traffic in Q4 – 3.84% – outperformed the comparable rates for search (2.23%) and social (0.74%) by a significant margin. Visitors arriving at e-commerce websites via email also had a much higher add-to-cart rate than the other camps, while viewing about one more page than search-referred visitors and about twice as many as socially-referred traffic.

[Editor’s Note: Each of the channels examined showed increases in average order values (AOVs) on a year-over-year basis in Q4. However, the Monetate report shows email as having the largest AOV, followed by social and then search. This is likely a misprint; numerous past quarterly reports from Monetate have all shown search traffic to have the highest AOV, followed by email and then social. The Monetate report also initially mislabeled conversion rates, putting social highest, ahead of email and search. This appeared to be way off-base compared to prior reports, and Monetate corrected the labeling of the table after MarketingCharts reached out for clarification. No such clarification has yet been issued regarding AOVs as of the time of publication of this article.]

About the Data: Monetate’s E-Commerce Quarterly analyzes a random sample of over seven billion online shopping experiences using “same store” data across each calendar quarter.

Averages throughout the EQ are calculated across the entire sample. Key performance indicators, such as average order value and conversion rate, will vary by industry/market type. These averages are published only to support the analysis in each release of the EQ, and are not intended to be benchmarks for any e-commerce business.