Multi-Channel Marketing: Where are retailers getting the best results?

EcommerceAs most people will know, it’s not always the channel that drives the greatest numbers that necessarily delivers the most valuable traffic, and the people who are most likely to purchase. So what are the best performing digital channels for today’s e-tailers? Is Social Media with all its growth and all its hype really worth the investment?

Apparently not, according to a new report just released by Forsee Results. Every year, Forsee surveys online shoppers frequenting the top 40 retail sites in the United Kingdom and this year one of the key questions they wanted to answer was: ‘Do retail results justify investment in social media’?

Well, with the survey findings showing that social media was responsible for only 3% of visiting traffic it would seem not. Other more established channels, such as Search (13%) and Email (10%) were shown to surpass by far and away the impact of social media channels.

The report however did not stop at just analysis of traffic volumes, but went on to analyse the quality of the traffic being delivered by gathering data for each channel according to customer satisfaction and likelihood to purchase, both online and offline. Here is where there were some interesting results.

Promotional email, one of top rated sources for traffic volume also rated highly for satisfaction and likelihood to purchase. Whereas Search ranked comparatively poorly in these areas. Why would that be? Well, it certainly doesn’t surprise me that promotional email scored well. With relevancy and personalisation, the keys to effective email marketing, you’re always going to give yourself the best opportunity to maximise your response rates. I will just mention here that this data is obviously a sample of all shoppers and represents an average across 40 different retailers. Although the data might be telling us that retailers in general are having success with their email marketing efforts, my personal experience to date is that some are definitely still struggling in this area. I have now received two emails from a well known retailer here in the UK – who I won’t name and shame – in the last 10 days or so that are just horrifically generic, both leading with their latest deals on women’s clothes! No personalisation, no relevance and straight to my deleted items folder. This is not a hard thing to get right. I’ve made several purchases from them. They have my data and purchase history so why aren’t they using it?

So why does Search rank poorly? Are we putting too much focus on optimising our sites and pages for search engine algorithms as opposed to for the end user? The end result being that once the user has clicked through, they are not presented with what they wanted and what they were actually searching for? My personal opinion is, quite possibly. Of course, it’s a balancing act. If one doesn’t tip one’s hat to the search engines and play the SEO game then users are never going to find your listing. However if you go too far the other way and do everything to obtain that top ranking without actually stopping to think what the user wants once they click-through to your site then you’re not going to win either. If you’re getting the clicks and the traffic but not the conversions then maybe its time for some conversion rate optimisation (CRO) and some multivariate testing to see what’s working and what’s not….but that’s a topic for another post I feel.

So at this stage, all the data is telling us that retailers would be foolish to ignore the tried and tested online marketing channels in favour of newer media. Although social media is clearly here to stay, it’s yet to establish itself as the medium of choice, in terms of traffic or sales. Indeed, when asked to pick the channel by which they wanted to be contacted by retailers, consumers again overwhelmingly chose traditional channels with 62% saying email was their preferred method of contact and only 2% opting for social media.

So before you decide to build that Facebook e-commerce store or dive headlong into a large scale social media promotion why not first take a look at your email marketing strategy and really assess whether you are getting the most out of that channel or whether with a few tweaks you can get far more bang for your buck!

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