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While retailers are busy focusing on their Facebook pages and Pinterest boards this holiday season, new research is looking at how effective social media is in online holiday sales.

Custora, an e-commerce analytics company has suggested that a very small percentage of online sales actually come from company’s social networks. Only 2% of unique sales made since November 1, 2103 started as a social media post that a potential customer clicked on. This information comes from information on 100 U.S.-based retailers, 70 million online shoppers and over $10 billion spent.

So where are the sales originating from?

26% of sales started with an organic search. 25% of sales started with a direct visit to the retailer’s website. 17% originated from email marketing, and 16% originated from a paid search. The majority of the stores included in this story are pure e-commerce stores (they do not have brick-and-mortar locations). They included companies like Etsy, One Kings Lane, Rab, Birtchbox and Bonobos.

According to Corey Pierson, so-founder of Custora, “It is fair to say – and perhaps pretty surprising – that clicks from social very rarely directly lead to orders.” Despite this, Pierson also points out that the retailers with the highest index get approximately 10% of their sales from social posts during the holiday season.

Of the sales that did originate from a social post, 80% of them came from Facebook, 15% came from Pinterest and 5% came from Twitter. The growth of sales from social media is also growing slower than the growth of sales in other areas of eCommerce.

During the holiday season (from November 1 through Christmas); sales from social networks grew approximately 19%, which is inline with overall sales growth during the holiday season.

According to Target, which is was not part of the Custora study; their web traffic grew approximately 70% in the six weeks following their introduction of the Target Awesome store, which highlights products that are widely pinned on Pinterest.


By Melanie Williamson