The No. 1 Way to Get Paying Customers to Your Site

Social media like Facebook or Twitter isn't it. A new study shows the most valuable source

Written by Mira Shenker

Building Facebook and Twitter followers is a priority for online-only businesses. But they may be worth a lot less than some digital marketers thing. New research from marketing company Custora shows that organic search and pay-per click and cost-per-click ads yield more valuable (read: willing to spend) customers for online retailers than social media (at least in the U.S.). Custora’s E-commerce Customer Acquisition Snapshot shows that customers acquired via Twitter are worth 23% less to digital marketers, and Facebook brings in just barely average clients. But pay-per-click advertising (think: Google ads) brings in customers worth 46% more, and organic search brings in buyers who are worth 54% more than your average customer.

E-mail marketing also beats social, with 12% more valuable customers. Custora found that customer acquisition via email has quadrupled over the last four years, with a number of U.S. retailers building communities and collecting email addresses, then converting those “members” into customers.

Source: Custora

U.S. ecommerce sales now topping $200 billion annually. Although Canada is behind, the etail industry is on the rise. (Listen to founder Drew Green on the Canadian ecommerce explosion.) With more online retailers cropping up all the time, your customer acquisition strategy becomes crucial to success. Most online businesses put a lot of stock in a solid social strategy. But this data shows that customers don’t necessarily find etailers through those channels.

That said, there is a less tangible benefit to building a strong social media presence. It’s easier to calculate the ROI on a direct email campaign or Google ad. The value of social lies in brand awareness, community building, and customer service: all metrics its harder to measure.

Slideshow: 6 Powerful Ways to Use Social

The results of Custora’s E-commerce Customer Acquisition Snapshot, the first in a series of reports examining emergent ecommerce customer acquisition trends, are based on aggregated data from millions of U.S. customers and ecommerce retailers.

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