Email drives only 6% of total retail site traffic, compared with 48% for direct visits and 24% for organic search, according to the B2C Dot-Com Report, a study by Episerver.
But email is tied with direct as delivering the most units per order — 3.4. This is because “personalized recommendations are more abundant on retail websites and in the emails they send versus other channels listed,” the study states.
In contrast, organic search derives 3.1 units, while referrals come in at 2.9 and paid search is at 2.8.
The study also shows that 50% of all site traffic now comes from smartphones, 41% from desktops and 9% from tablets, proving the need to design both email and websites to accommodate mobile.
Yet in another seeming contradiction, desktops produce 3.6 units per order, compared with only 2.9 for smartphones and 2.3 for tablets.
The reason? “While desktop users are more profitable in this case, mobile users may be more inclined to add items and get out of clunky experiences,” the study concludes.
Email comes up short when it comes to conversions, producing 2.3% on average, compared with 2.9% for paid search, 2.8% for organic search and 2.6% for referral.
Still, email tops several other traffic sources, including direct (2.0%), social (1.0%) and display (0.7%).
In more bad news for the channel, email scores only a 34 traffic score index — a computation of the bounce rate, conversion rate and units per order. It lags behind paid search (56%), organic search (48%), referral (47%) and social (44%).
However, email is likely more profitable than these other channels because the buyers “are return or at least loyal customers who convert from a retailer or brand’s email campaign.”
Thus, the study advises merchants to “shore up high traffic sources such as direct and email, which saw lower conversion rates and higher bounce rates despite the high quantity of traffic.”
Why does direct score so badly on conversions? Probably because it gets “a bad rap for having “look-and-leave traffic,” the study surmises.
As for channel traffic, email also falls behind paid search (13%), but ahead of social (4%), referral (3%) and display (1%).
In a separate area, the study notes that merchants put the most items on sale in June — 20% of their total catalog. November is second (19%). while August, December and January are tied at 18% apiece, and February sees 17%.
Episerver tracked 1.3 billion unique shopping sessions experienced by its customers across 159 unique retail and consumer brand websites worldwide.