Forget Facebook: Emails Attracted More Holiday Shoppers to Retail Sites

Promotional emails were far more effective than social-media recommendations at attracting shoppers to retail websites, according to a new ForeSee study.When it comes to online marketing, promotional emails still are king.

This holiday season, promotional emails were more than twice as likely as an online search -- and almost four times as likely as a recommendation on a social-media site -- to lure a shopper to a specific retail Website, according to a report ForeSee Results released Wednesday. The study suggests that sites such as Facebook may have less influence than many might think, at least for now.

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According to a ForeSee poll, about one in five shoppers accessed a site because of a promotional email, compared to only 8% influenced by a search-engine result and the 5% driven by a social-network recommendation. Additionally, about 14% of shoppers accessed a retail site through a mobile phone -- but almost exclusively to look up a price or track down an item, instead of to make a purchase, according to the study.

However they got to the retail websites, customers ended up being more satisfied with than once they'd arrived, according to the ForeSee survey. Customers said Amazon had better website functionality (meaning the website worked better and was easier to use), merchandise and content, while matching Walmart prices.

The report comes as retailers are closely examining their online strategies. A growing number of shoppers now buy their holiday gifts on the Internet instead of going to a physical store. For the seven weeks that ended Dec. 19, online retail spending in the U.S. rose 12% from the same period a year earlier to $25.3 billion, ComScore said last week. The growth outpaced the research firm's initial forecasts, largely because of free-shipping offers from retailers such as (AMZN) and Walmart (WMT).

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