Study: Email Lands More Customers Than Facebook Or Twitter, But Still Fewer Than Organic Search


ecommerce-online-sales-retailA new report from marketing software provider Custora found that customer acquisitions gained via email marketing has quadrupled since 2009, with email delivering more customers than Facebook or Twitter.

According to the report, email accounted for only .88 percent of online customers acquired in 2009, but that number grew to 6.84 percent by Q2 2013. Facebook and Twitter’s combined customer acquisitions have accounted for less than one percent this year.

Custora customer acquisition study

Even after an upswing of nearly seven percent during the last four years, email still falls behind organic search, which has accounted for more than 15 percent of online customer acquisitions this year.

Acquisition channel growth

To conduct the study, Custora analyzed 72 million customers shopping on 86 different retailer websites across 14 different industries. Tracking the path customers took to get to the retail websites (email, social networks, Google, PPC, etc.), Custora evaluated what and how much a customer bought from the first click to purchases made two years later.

Based on the amount of money spent and shopping frequency, customers acquired via email were 11 percent more valuable than the average customer, while customers acquired via Facebook ranked as average. Twitter customers were 23 percent less valuable than average.

Ranking 50 percent more valuable than the average customer, organic search customers spent more money and shopped more frequently than customers gained via any other online channel.

Customer lifetime value by channel reported on a similar study conducted by social marketing agency SocialTwist evaluating 119 social marketing campaigns from leading brands with 3.2 million participating consumers. Over the duration of 18 months, SocialTwist examined how consumers interacted with social referrer programs and evolved into brand advocates.

The SocialTwist study discovered that while Facebook offered the largest reach at 85 percent, consumers who became advocates were most likely to share information or refer products or services using email, with 55.4 percent choosing email over Facebook or Twitter. Email also resulted in more new customers, accounting for 50.8 percent of new visitors referred by friends.


Such statistics reinforce the importance of email marketing and highlight the value of a strong email list compared to the number of social followers gained on Facebook or Twitter. In addition to the data offered by such reports, industry acquisitions like Salesforce’s plans to buy ExactTarget for $2.5 billion further validate the importance of email marketing in today’s wide landscape of marketing channels.

Postscript: It’s worth noting that the Custora study separated PPC, CPC and search based on how the data was received from the client. According to a comment thread on Custora’s blog in response to why PPC, CPC and search was not combined, a Custora spokesperson confirmed, “Yes, we used the client supplied utm_medium code. Some of the companies we work with lump PPC/CPC/Organic as ‘Google’ and others parse them apart.”

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is Third Door Media’s General Assignment Reporter, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including,, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.



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