Email Tops Christmas 2010 Traffic Drivers

Santas Everywhere Embraced Email Marketing in 2010If you're a retail marketer, chances are that as soon as December 26th rolled around, your thoughts turned to Cupid and the fiscal--I mean, romantic--promise of Valentine's Day.  Before you get too hopped up on conversation hearts, however, you may want to reflect back on Christmas 2010 with help from the folks at ForSee Results.

For the sixth year running, the good folks at ForeSee Results have released their Holiday Edition E-Retail Satisfaction Index.  While the lion's share of the report details which online retailers most impressed consumers (with Amazon & Netflix topping the rankings), there's a gem buried in the report that all marketers should note:

Only about 5% of online holiday shoppers report being primarily influenced to visit top retailer sites by social media channels, yet retailers continue to put vast resources into this type of marketing. Meanwhile, 19% came to the website primarily as a result of a promotional email and 8% as a result of search engine results, suggesting that tried-and-true online marketing tactics should not be abandoned or ignored in favor of newer media.

That's right, email generated about 4 times the Xmas traffic to online retailers as did social media channels.  Frankly, this shouldn't come as a surprise, and yet it does to some because of all of the headlines garnered by social media during 2010. 

What we all need to remember is that email marketing has a decade plus of adoption over Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and other social media channels.  Moreover, most consumers are not bleeding edge adopters.  Email's continued dominance as a traffic and sales driver is due as much to its efficacy as it is familiarity with consumers and ubiquity thanks to mobile devices.

Will ForeSee Results' 2011 report show the growth of social media as a traffic driver for online retailers--I would certainly be stunned if it didn't.  However, don't simply assume that traffic will come at the expense of email.  In his 4 Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2011, Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, says we'll see "The Full Resurrection of Email."  He opines:
The smarter marketers will budget “social media” acquisitions based on lifetime value (or a set duration, like 6 months’ retail purchases) of e-mail addresses.

The takeaway for online retailers?  Don't forget to show some love to the email channel this Valentine's Day and beyond.  It may not garner the headlines, but it continues to generate the sales.

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