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Facebooks Leads the Way, But Many Social Media Platforms DriveTraffic and Sales

The top 500 online retailers in terms of site traffic from social media earned $3.3 billion in revenue from social shopping in 2014 while a popular eCommerce platform shows that many of its small and medium merchant clients are increasing site visits and volume through multiple social media apps and sites as well. If you doubted the significance of social media in driving web traffic and sales, these figures from Internet Retailer, Shopify and Business Insider may convince you otherwise.

Including desktop and mobile access, social media drove 1.5 percent of eCommerce web traffic in the first quarter of 2015. While this seems quite low in comparison to the 16 percent of eCommerce web traffic from paid search and 34 percent from organic search, traffic referrals from social media are in a period of steep growth as social contributed just 0.5 percent of eCommerce web traffic in the first quarter of 2014. This represents a year-over-year change of 200% for social driven web traffic, meanwhile traffic from emails, organic search and paid search fell by 4 percent, 8 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

Internet Retailer maintains a list of e-retailers that drive the most traffic through social media platforms, known as the Social Media 500. For the merchants on this list social media drove 5.77 percent of total site traffic in 2014, up from 5.36 percent in 2013. While the merchants that are arguably the best at leveraging social media realized modest gains with social traffic in 2014, the fact that social traffic tripled for total eCommerce web traffic shows that many more online retailers are increasing their social media efforts.

Increasing traffic is one thing, but as merchants continue to shift more advertising dollars to social platforms they want to know how that translates to sales. In 2014 the Social Media 500 collectively earned $3.3 billion in purchases by consumers coming from social networks, up 26 percent from 2013. While gains in social driven traffic where limited, this group of eCommerce merchants showed they know how to leverage social media to drive more sales.

A brief study from eCommerce platform Shopify analyzed the details from 37 million visits to Shopify merchant stores, and results show the many small and medium online merchants that use this platform are leveraging social media as well. Online orders driven by Facebook increased 129 percent while transactions coming via Pinterest increased 79 percent in one year’s time. All social networks are not created equal, however. Facebook drives the most sales with the highest share of social media visits (63 percent) and the highest conversion rate (1.85 percent). By comparison, Pinterest represented 13 percent of social media visits while Twitter accounted for 10.5 percent. While 1.85 percent of site visitors who came from Facebook make a purchase, social video sites YouTube and Vimeo have the next highest conversion rate at 1.16 percent each.

There is no denying the importance of social media to an online merchant when you consider the impact it can have on the brand, web traffic and online sales volume. But it is important for organizations to leverage multiple social media channels as well as to think about how these channels can be leveraged to drive sales, not just traffic. Several social networks, including Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, are making it easier for consumers to transact on their platform which will likely drive higher conversion. But organizations should also consider the demographic composition of their customer base to prioritize efforts. For example, Instagram’s user base skews younger while Pinterest’s skews more towards females.

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