Consumers are increasingly using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, but marketers still need to focus on targeted and relevant email marketing if they want to enjoy e-commerce success, according to research published by Econsultancy this week

Despite the current hype surrounding social media, social network adoption and its influence on e-commerce is far from maturity. More than a third of consumers (38%) do not use a social profile site, and only 6% have asked for recommendations on social sites during their most recent product search.

For a range of different types of commerce-related messaging, including vouchers, special offers and delivery notices, notification via social media falls behind more established methods of communication such as email and postal mail.

How We Shop in 2010: Habits and Motivations of UK Consumers focuses on how people prefer to interact with e-commerce brands, how they conduct product research, and the relative importance of different factors in the decision-making process leading up to an online purchase.

The internet has dramatically changed consumer shopping habits, with product research and customer service emerging as key pillars of successful e-commerce.

The findings, based on a survey of more than 1,200 nationally representative UK consumers, are broken down by different age groups to give deeper insight into their behaviour and motivations.

The results highlight the continued importance of targeted and relevant email marketing. Half of consumers reported that irrelevant information (50%) devalued emails they received. Similarly, 50% of respondents said that emails weren’t valuable because there was “no special advantage” to receiving them.

Over a third of respondents (36%) replied that receiving an email had prompted them to make a purchase online, whilst around a quarter (27%) reported that an email was the cause of an offline purchase.

According to the report: “Online product research contributes to a far larger percentage of total retail than the 8% directly attributed to e-commerce, while the evolving nature of digital interaction and customer service is changing the fundamental relationship between companies and consumers.

“The winners will be those who use digital communications most effectively, to influence and enable both online and offline purchases.”

Econsultancy’s UK Research Director, Linus Gregoriadis, added: “Despite the rise of social media, the role of the email channel is secure. Email is extremely effective as long as companies are targeted and relevant when communicating with consumers. Companies need to use both channels in an appropriate way, and should regard email as ‘social media glue’. It’s not a case of ‘either or’.”

Although the social media channel has not yet matured, it is clear that this type of marketing has an increasingly important role to play, especially for younger consumers. Those in the 18-26 age bracket are far more receptive than older groups to communication and customer service through social media.

When it comes to advertising messages, email notification is the preferred way for almost two thirds of consumers (61%) to receive promotional material for sales and specials, compared to 28% who said postal mail and only 5% who said social sites.

Other research findings

-) The younger the audience, the more mistrust there is towards advertising. However, the majority of consumers appreciate receiving advertising messages when it is directly beneficial to them, such as receiving a discount on a product or service (57%).

-) Nearly two-thirds of respondents (61%) said that they use search engines to help them in their shopping research decisions. Almost half of respondents (47%) use information websites, while 45% use online retailers’ websites such as Amazon. Consumers are increasingly reliant on the internet as a primary research tool, with relatively few respondents using magazines (19%) and catalogues (14%) for their research.

-) Consumers were also questioned about their priorities when making a purchase. A warranty or guarantee came out as the most important criterion, closely followed by style or design and brand name. The least important priority was the price, suggesting that consumers are willing to pay a premium for a product or service that they want and fully matches their requirements.

-) Although we now live in a technologically-advanced society, large numbers of consumers do not engage in a range of digital activities which are becoming quite common-place for “early adopters”. For example, 82% of consumers surveyed have not paid to download a film or television programme, 72% have never checked their email on a mobile device and 65% do not access the internet on a mobile device.

Report URL:

There is also a similar report available, looking at US consumers

Journalists and bloggers: Please contact Econsultancy for more information about this report.

Media contacts:
Linus Gregoriadis, UK Research Director, Econsultancy
(e: linus.gregoriadis AT t: + 44 (0) 207 269 1465)

Stefan Tornquist, US Research Director, Econsultancy
(e: stefan.tornquist AT t: + +1 212 699 3626)

About Econsultancy

Econsultancy is a digital publishing and training group that is used by more than 200,000 internet professionals every month.

The company publishes practical and time-saving research to help marketers make better decisions about the digital environment, build business cases, find the best suppliers, look smart in meetings and accelerate their careers.

Econsultancy has offices in New York and London, and hosts more than 100 events every year in the US and UK. Many of the world's most famous brands use Econsultancy to educate and train their staff.

Some of Econsultancy’s members include: Google, Yahoo, Dell, BBC, BT, Shell, Vodafone, Virgin Atlantic, Barclays, Deloitte, T-Mobile and Estée Lauder.

Join Econsultancy today to learn what’s happening in digital marketing – and what works.

Call us to find out more on +44 (0)20 7269 1450 (London) or +1 212 699 3626 (New York). You can also contact us online.

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Published on: 12:51PM on 21st July 2010