August 2, 2013, 10:34 AM

CafePress sees a shift from search to social media

Web sales from Facebook and other social media in Q2 grew 185%.

Mark Brohan

Research Director

Lead Photo

At personalized products web merchant CafePress Inc. social media is showing signs of topping search engine marketing and site search as one of the best ways to reach consumers, CEO Bob Marino told Wall Street analysts on the company’s recent second quarter earnings call.

As of 2012, 41% of all monthly visitor traffic to CaféPress.com, No. 110 in the 2013 Internet Retailer Top 500 came from Google and other search engines, according to Internet traffic measurement firm Experian Marketing Services. The company also spends an estimated $3.9 million annually on paid search advertising, says search engine advertising and consulting firm ROI Revolution Inc., which used data provided by Spyfu.com in its calculation to measure paid search metrics for the Top 500 Guide.

But as more CafePress.com visitors and shoppers find out about the company and its products on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, social media is helping CafePress.com find more targeted buyers than traffic from search engines. “We are seeing a significant change in online shopping behavior as consumers are shifting from simply typing products or categories into the search box towards discovering new products from their friends and social network,” Marino told Wall Street analysts. “We have found that recommendations are becoming an increasingly important part of the shopping experience and conversion rates from social channels are significantly higher than those from search.”

Marino didn’t release many specifics on how many sales come directly from social media, but the numbers are growing. “CafePress is capitalizing on a variety of social media programs,” Marino said. “While coming off a small base during the second quarter, revenue from social media activities was up 185% year-over-year.”

In recent months CafePress.com has been rolling out a number of initiatives to boost its presence on Facebook and elsewhere, Marino said. CafePress.com has expanded the number of holiday products it now markets through Facebook and added a monthly contest that rewards winners with the most product referrals with free merchandise, discounts and other prizes.

The new social media initiatives are working, Marino told analysts. “Facebook likes are quickly closing in on the half-million mark,” Marino said. “During Q2 we expanded our presence on Facebook Gifts by doubling the number of products in their catalog from April to June and we were pleased to have a product selected by Facebook as a Mother’s Day promotion which expanded awareness of CafePress.com.”

CafePress sells products like coffee mugs and refrigerator magnets through Facebook Gifts, which Facebook launched last fall. The social network notes a user’s friends’ birthdays, anniversaries and other notable personal dates in the top-right corner of its home page. When a consumer clicks to write, say a happy birthday note to a friend, Facebook shows a link that says “Give him a gift.” Clicking on that link takes him to Facebook’s Gifts page, which displays a variety of product for sale.

For the six months ending June 30, CafePress reported web sales increased 20.6% to $104.9 million from $87.0 million during the same time frame in 2012 and a net loss of $5.7 million, compared with a loss of $804,000 a year ago.

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