Practical Ecommerce

Email Versus Social Media: 3 Key Points

With increased use of social media, many marketing professionals wonder if email will remain relevant. The question for ecommerce retailers then becomes where should they focus their efforts, and should they abandon email for social media?

comScore, the tracking and analysis firm, publishes an annual “U.S. Digital Year in Review,” which describes trends and rankings in U.S. Internet activity. The 2010 Review — available as a downloadable PDF — reported that email usage among teenagers age 12-17 declined 59 percent in 2010, and declined by 18 percent among those age 18-25. Only among users age 55 and older did email usage increase during 2010, according to comScore.

What does this mean for email strategy for online retailers? Not much, unless teenagers and young adults happen to be your main demographic. As teenagers and young adults mature, however, their behavior will likely change in terms of what types of media they respond to.

Email Versus Social Media: 3 Points

Nevertheless social media usage is indeed increasing, but email still remains a very important tool for ecommerce marketers. I’ve listed three key points about using email and social media, below.

  1. Social media uses email. For every Facebook wall post or new Twitter follower, an email is sent to notify the user of updates. The world of social media would not have the stickiness it does without these constant reminders flooding our inboxes, driving us back to those sites. Asking a consumer to log into several different sites on a daily basis to check updates is a large commitment. Many rely on their inbox as their one-stop notification center to help manage the clutter.

  2. Business communications depend on email. Most online transactions require users to enter their email address, and users expect to receive timely notifications afterwards. Businesses and consumers use email to communicate, not only promotional offers and newsletters, but also electronic versions of bank statements and order confirmations.

  3. Consumers react differently to social media. Social media is, well, social. It’s a vehicle to stay in contact with friends, family and professional colleagues. For consumers, it can be a vehicle to voice opinions and make requests. Many businesses that use social media have found that consumers request coupons or deals that will directly benefit them.

    For example, Ruby Tuesday — the restaurant chain — recently promoted a hamburger on the company’s Facebook wall. But, many Ruby Tuesday Fans instead requested a coupon to accompany the hamburger. In other words, the wall post itself generated requests for a coupon. Ruby Tuesday can generate revenue by responding to those requests.


An overwhelming percentage of adults depend on email. Many — but not all — of them also use social media sites. Ecommerce merchants will continue to use email as a trusted communication channel. They can use social media as a vehicle to solicit views of their consumers. By using both, merchants can enhance their brands, and grow their businesses.

Carolyn Nye

Carolyn Nye

Bio   •   RSS Feed


Sign up for our email newsletter

  1. Louis Camassa April 29, 2011 Reply

    Nice post Carolyn!

    Email marketing continues to be one of the top 4 or 5 revenue producing sources for eCommerce websites (as per MarketingSherpa’s 2009 Ecommerce Benchmark Report). I can also vouch for this statistic with the dozens of clients I work with.

    Email marketing is not only still strong and thriving, it is truly one of the easiest, low cost, and effective marketing mediums around. Compared to SEO and PPC, you don’t have changing algorithms and you aren’t paying out per click. Next to direct to site, and free Shopping Comparison sites, it is truly the cheapest method to drive sales.

    Some of my clients send out 4-8 newsletters a month. The unsubscribe rate is low, but sales continue to grow. Conversion rates are usually much higher than the site average, making the per visit value greater. Remember, that not everyone gets the emails (some go in the spam folder, some get deleted, etc..) so frequency is key.

    I would still recommend focusing on social media (which pales in comparison to email marketing when it comes to ROI) mobile, and search. As well as comparison shopping, affiliate marketing, PPC, etc…

    However, just like any marketing approach, you need to craft the email properly. This includes a catchy subject line, a enticing promotion/offer, good design, etc!

  2. eshams April 29, 2011 Reply

    It’s no brainer to see that social media is here to stay for good. Given vast variety of the existing channels to choose and stick with, it’s time for such a hot space to enter into a new category. There is a need for a portal to provide a quick and intelligent decision for both the consumer and the enterprise about their online connections.

    A Platform to Help us to Distinguish Our Quality vs. Quantity Friends, Fans, Followers, and Companies

    Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Flickr and others have been doing a decent job of providing additional marketing exposure and even in some cases, additional revenue. However, as more and more social networking sites pop up, how do you manage your brand across all these channels? Maybe more importantly, which one of these sites should you select as the one that will help you best reach your target audience? The proliferation of the social media avenues is becoming overwhelming.

    This glut of information reminds me of the early 90’s when WWW was adopted broadly by the general public. Every company rushed to have a presence, to the point it became literally impossible to find the right information on the Web. That’s when a better generation of search engines – at first the Yahoo! and then Google – entered the market and helped us find the most relevant information by just typing simple keywords in their search box. If you had asked before Google launched, if there was a need for another search engine – most would have said no, we already have those….

    Then came Web 1.0 & 2.0 – Youtube, Flickr, myspace, Facebook, Twitter and countless others have turned everyday people into content producers, influencers and experts. We basically tripled down on the information overload How do you know which channels to select for deploying your social media strategy? How do you know which one is the right channel to let your fans and followers to find you, your products, and services? Most importantly, who is Joe Smith that is recommending that person, that company, that product?

    I hope my can accomplish such a mission. The site is not another social networking platform. Yet the portal to all your existing social media channels. The platform helps you, your fans, your potential clients to make an intelligent decision as to which company to connect to or follow via which social media channels and why? It’s free!

    CEO & Founder

  3. Shilo Jones May 2, 2011 Reply

    Carolyn, great post and excellent screen shot of Ruby Tuesday’s.

    Louis, I totally agree with your point. In my experience as an operator and with the work we are doing with our clients at SweetMetrics, email continues to drive strong engagement with a company’s brand and it is one of the most effective revenue generating tools in the marketing quiver.

    I think we can start to think about the various communication platforms whether it is email, social media, mobility or a combination of all of them through the lens of a maturity model that will help online retailers have a road map as to what success looks like. I am not talking about something out of one of the big research firms or a platform vendor promising some unified integrated nirvana, but something practical that we can all wrap our hands around and put to use.

    I am still amazed at how many online retailers are still doing the blast approach to their email marketing initiative and are laboring at that even. The tools and data needed to deliver an authentically personal, relevant message are available today but it seems it is the the lack of truly understanding a customer’s interests and behaviors that is causing the disconnect.

  4. Ryan Lunka May 3, 2011 Reply

    Good article, but I disagree with point #1. I think originally email was a factor in driving people back to social networking sites, but I don’t believe that to be the case anymore. Facebook, Twitter, etc. have now become integral parts of most people’s lives to the point that they no longer need to be reminded to check them. The fact that they have been implemented as platforms (not just websites) further increases this, because now their information is accessible via mobile, TV, SMS, and the list is sure to grow.