Email and search marketers might feel as if they have an uphill climb to influence new customers and secure old, but a recent study suggests the two online media have become the most effective online tools to drive sales.
The Forrester Research report -- The Purchase Path of Online Buying in 2012 -- in collaboration with GSI Commerce Spring Attribution Research, identifies the Web as a powerful tool for consumers looking for brands, products and services by typing words into a search box or speaking them aloud.
The report suggests that new buyers are "heavily influenced by paid search," more so than repeat customers. In fact, Forrester cites search as the single most important tactic for finding new customers. While 7% of new consumers typically type in a URL to find a site, 6% use a search engine followed by one other tactic or paid-search ad followed by one other tactic. Overall, 39% of transactions by new customers begin with clicks from paid or organic search results.
Search attracts new customers, but email works best for repeat customers, according to the report. About 4% of new consumers are influenced by an email and use one other tactic to find the product, compared with 17% of repeat customers using email and one other tactic. Some 30% of transactions by repeat shoppers start with a click on an email from retailers.
Direct traffic remains critical to sales. So, while search and email drive conversions, social media works best to bring awareness to brands, products, and services. The Forrester report identifies a disconnect between the conversion and the influence from highly top-of-the-funnel tactics that require more time.
Some social sites work better than others to move consumers through the purchase path. Pinterest users spend fewer dollars on travel than the average Internet user, but for apparel and home categories they spend more, according to the comScore State of the Internet in the U.S. 2012 report released Wednesday.
Images on Pinterest related to the Home and Living category influence consumers most, 25%, compared with other social sites at 24%. Apparel and Accessories follow with 17%, companies with other social sites across the Internet.