Social media drives just 3% of visits to retail websites in the UK, but is this because many retailers aren’t using this channel effectively? 

For its Social Media Marketing Report, ForeSee Results surveyed almost 10,000 visitors to the UK’s top 40 websites (by traffic volume, as defined by IMRG and Hitwise) to determine what led them to visit the website. 

While I wouldn’t argue with the point that retailers shouldn’t abandon tried and tested online marketing techniques, social media is still a relatively new medium and retailers still have plenty of room for improvement. 

ForeSee asked respondents what the primary influence on their visit to a retailer’s website was, and the top result (with 46%) was brand familiarity, followed by search engines (13%). 

ForeSee chart 1 small

Just 3% said social media influenced their visit, though you could argue that the 1% from blogs should be added to that figure. 

One thing these stats also don’t tell us is the kind of journey that the customer may have made before visiting the website. There are plenty of paths to a website that customers may have taken which include some kind of social media or other influence.

For example, customers may see a new offer or product from a retailer they follow on Facebook, and then head for the website later via a search engine. 

The next chart looks into the figures in more detail. Here’s a larger version of it. 

ForeSee chart 3 small

While the figures for satisfaction and likelihood to purchase and recommend were highest for brand familiarity and emails, they were also strong for recommendations from friends on social media and ads on social networks. 

ForeSee is correct in its assertion that retailers shouldn’t discard proven online marketing techniques in favour of social media, though I don’t think any retailers are planning to do so. 

Another issue here is which of the top 40 retail websites in the UK are actually running effective social media campaigns. Social media is a relatively new marketing medium and many brands are still finding their way. 

For example, while Boots is one of the retailers in the top 40, yet I can find no Facebook or Twitter accounts for the company, while John Lewis only recently created a Facebook page. With just 21,000 followers (so far), this is unlikely to drive significant volumes of traffic at the moment.

By contrast, retailers that have worked hard on their social media marketing can get much more than 3% of traffic from social media. Just from Facebook and Twitter alone, ASOS gets more than double the 3% figure in this survey

If you look at the retailer’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, it’s not hard to see why. It has 438,000 ‘friends’ on Facebook, provides regular updates, and now even sells on the site. On Twitter it has 77,000 followers on its official account, but also has separate accounts for things like discounts and customer service. 

Retailers shouldn’t allow these figures to discourage them from using social media, there are after all plenty of success stories of retailers driving sales via social media, Dell being perhaps the most famous example.

Instead, retailers could look at how they can do more to make their presence on sites like Facebook more effective and, as the report says, ‘make sure that interactions on social media meet the needs and expectations of customers’. 

To download ForeSee’s Social Media Marketing Report, you can register here