Search Dominates as E-Commerce Traffic Driver, But Social’s Probably Undervalued

Monetate-Ecommerce-Traffic-Share-by-Source-Q12012-Q12013-May2013Compared to email (2.82%) and social media (1.55%), search (31.43%) is easily the primary driver of direct e-commerce traffic, according to [download page] the latest quarterly report from Monetate covering Q1 activity. That’s the way it has been for some time now, and probably will be for the foreseeable future, at least when considering that the share of e-commerce traffic coming from both social and email decreased in Q1 compared to a year earlier. But the researchers make a valid point that is bolstered by other recent studies: these findings are based on a last-touch attribution model, which typically undervalues social’s role significantly.

That point was made recently by Aggregate Knowledge, but it isn’t the first to make it. Adobe put forward the same argument earlier this month, and last year. Google gives the argument some steam with some hard data: according to a review of US Google Analytics accounts with e-commerce tracking enabled, Google found that after display clicks, social media is the channel most often used in the earlier part of the online path to purchase (as an “assist”), rather than as a “last interaction.” The next channel most heavily used in the earlier part of the purchase journey? Email. Meanwhile, direct and organic search show up as the channels most active as last interactions.

Given those findings, it’s more understandable that search beats out email and social in a last-click model, although it is worth noting that the gap between the channels is resounding. Even so, taking those figures into account makes it easier to marry the low e-commerce traffic figures from social with other survey-based accounts showing that social is a strong influencer of retail behavior.

Other Findings:

  • The add-to-cart rate was higher for traffic referred by email (10.51%) than search (6.81%) and social (3.24%).
  • Average page views was equal for email and search traffic (9.02 each), both about double social’s average (4.6).
  • Email traffic sported the highest conversion rate (3.19%), followed by search (1.95%) and social (0.71%).
  • Search traffic had the highest average order value ($96.32), followed by email ($83.72) and social ($72.31).
  • Among social referrers, Pinterest ($80.54) boasted the highest average order value, followed by Facebook ($71.26) and Twitter ($70.17).
  • Pinterest’s share of social traffic grew from 17.5% in Q1 2012 to 25% in Q1 2013, while Facebook’s share retreated from 62.5% to 55.2%.
  • Looking at conversion rates by referrer, AOL Search (4.48%) came out easily on top, besting Bing (3.03%), Yahoo (2.8%), and Google (1.71%), among others. Traffic from Facebook converted at a much higher rate than traffic from Pinterest (1.08% vs. 0.36%).

About the Data: The EQ analyzes a random sample of over 500 million 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 ecommerce business.

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