For Shopping, Email Beats Social

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For Shopping, Email Beats Social

I saw this article yesterday on one of the email marketing newsletters I subscribe to.  The summary is that while people are increasingly consuming social media, they still prefer to shop via more traditional channels online.  Email is still a better trigger than social media ads.

I noticed this first-hand last year, while working with a venue client who was looking to sell event tickets through their social media channels.  We collaborated to develop a strong offer with assets unavailable to the general public, delivered it exclusively to consumers via targeted social channels (Facebook ads, as well as organic Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest posts) and drove a significant amount of traffic to the website.  But a strange thing happened once they were there – no one purchased a ticket through this offer.  Why would this be?

We brainstormed a number of reasons:  Those interested in the offer already had their tickets; People clicked on the link, but weren’t ready to buy; Maybe the offers weren’t as compelling as we believed.

However, my belief now is that consumers just don’t shop while socializing.  Think about your own behavior – Do you scroll through your Facebook page looking for offers?  When was the last time you clicked on a Twitter special offer?  It’s not that you aren’t interested in the offers you might see, but that mentally you aren’t in a “shopping zone”. 

With email, you can hold onto a relevant offer much longer than on social media channels without immediately acting on it.  If I’m at work, I may let an email linger in my inbox till later in the evening when I’m ready to shop.  Email is a series of individual events – I read one email, delete or file it, then move onto the next one.  So it’s more “interrupt-able” than social consumption where my behavior tends to be more of a browsing or scrolling pattern.  If I “lose my place” on my Twitter feed, I’m forced to start over again – with email, this isn’t an issue.

So, what’s the answer?  Digital media platforms should be used for what they tend to do best. Web pages and social feeds are great for branding, introducing new products, and staying top-of-mind.  Just like traditional mass media.  However, when it comes to encouraging a transaction, stick with the mail – whether it’s electronic or traditional. 

Ask media to do what it does best, not what you think it should be doing best.  After all, these days every marketer has plenty of options to choose from.

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