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Email, Search Drive Most Online Retail Traffic

Despite heavy marketing investments in social media, only 5% of holiday shoppers credited those channels for driving them to a retailer's site, reports ForSee study.

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Promotional emails and search-engine results -- not social media -- were the main reason shoppers headed to the top 40 retailers' Web sites, according to a new report.

In fact, 19% of respondents visited a retail site because of a promotional email, while 8% went to a site because of a search result, the ForeSee Results E-Tail Satisfaction Index found. Few of those polled credited social media for guiding them to a particular retail site, the report said.

"Only about 5% of online holiday shoppers report being primarily influenced to visit top retailer sites by social media channels, yet retailers continue to put vast resources into this type of marketing," said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results. "Meanwhile, 19% came to the Web site primarily as a result of a promotional email and 8% as a result of search engine results, suggesting that tried-and-true online marketing tactics should not be abandoned or ignored in favor of newer media."

Not surprisingly, at a time when smartphone sales continue to surge, shoppers are starting to rely more on these devices. This year, 14% accessed the Web site or mobile app of a specific retailer via their mobile phone, primarily using it to look up prices, compare product specifics, or do other product research, the survey said.

"While only 2% of all online shoppers actually report making a purchase from that particular retailer from their mobile phone, a total of 11% reported having made a purchase from their phones this holiday season, and this figure is trending upward over time," noted Freed in the study.

Online spending hit an all-time high this year, with shoppers spending an estimated $36.4 billion in November and December, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. Last year, consumers spent $31.5 billion in the same period, it reported.

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