Social media doesn’t have
much of a track record when it comes to driving e-commerce.
An IBM benchmark report tracking holiday online retail activity found that shoppers referred from social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, generated 0.34% of all online sales on Black Friday, down 35% from 2011. On Cyber Monday, social sites accounted for 0.41% of sales, down 26% from last year.
By contrast, Ecwid, which makes software for building e-commerce storefronts, says purchases resulting from Facebook referral links increased 6% to 7% during the holiday season, Thanksgiving through Christmas Day, from 4%-5% during the rest of the year. The referral rate reached as high as 8.5% on Dec. 6.
The company based its finding on data collected from the 180,000 online stores worldwide powered by its software, including stand-alone Web sites, mobile-only storefronts, Facebook and other platforms. About 40% of that total are on Facebook.
Ecwid says that many of the referral links were generated by “social conversations” originated by merchants on Facebook or through paid media on the site. Given that a large proportion of the e-commerce stores are located within Facebook, many of the referrals are happening within the social network.
Facebook itself ramped up e-commerce efforts late last year, launching Facebook Gifts, which allows U.S. users to buy gifts from partners from Dean & DeLuca to Pandora. The social network also began testing Collections, a Pinterest-like service for retailers to showcase their products on Facebook and link to e-commerce sites.
The social network is also adding services for small businesses, which Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has called the “holy grail” of online advertising. Facebook supports more than 13 million small and local business pages, with the number of local businesses buying advertising on the site nearly doubling last year.
Ecwid's online store-building widget is free for stores with 10 or fewer products, with monthly plans for larger stores starting at $15 for 100 products. The startup received $1.5 million in venture funding last year from Runa Capital.