June 17, 2010, 5:46 PM

For store promotions, e-mail tops social media.

Social media may be hot, but consumers prefer to get their store promotions via e-mail.

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Social media may be hot, but consumers prefer to get their store promotions via e-mail, a new study finds.

The survey by CrossView, a retail technology specialist whose clients include multichannel retailers Advance Auto Parts and Moosejaw, polled 160 shoppers across four states—North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois and Kansas—and found that 39% prefer receiving promotions via e-mail compared with 9% who would rather have them delivered via social media such as a Facebook page.  64% of those polled were female and 36% were male.

But even those who receive promotions say the offers won’t necessarily prompt them to visit a bricks-and-mortar store. Just 35% of shoppers were visiting a store because of a promotion. Of those, the most common type of promotion was direct mail. None visited a store because of a promotion received via social media such as Facebook or Twitter. 4% had received a promotion via text message, 29% from in-store resources, 32% via the mail, 27% via e-mail and 9% in another way.

While a promotion may not be the driving force behind a store visit, an offer can have an impact, the study finds. 68% of those polled who did not receive a promotion say they would have been more likely to visit because of a promotion. The rest said a promotion wouldn’t have an impact. 

39% said they would like to receive new product information in promotions, 16% requested store opening and closing notices, 12%, discounts and coupons, and 33% preferred no information.

While e-mail ranked first as the preferred method to get promotions, and social media was the least preferred category, 18% said they would like text message offers, 11% in-store offers, 23% mail offers.

“Consumers are also people, and social networks are more about expressiveness and connectedness than they are about shopping,” says Paula Rosenblum a managing partner at research and advisory firm Retail Systems Research. “Hence, promotions can come off as an intrusion and space waster.”

Steve Rowan, also a managing partner at RSR, says consumers are constantly connected to e-mail and not necessarily social networks. “I’m on e-mail all day, and I always have my iPhone with me at every store I walk into. If there’s a promotion via e-mail, it’s right there local to my phone at any time—no connecting to a slow-as-can-be 3G network and trying to navigate through Facebook,” Rowan says. “That said, I know there are lots of people who are connected to Facebook all day.”

Despite consumers favoring e-mail over social networks for offers, vendors are jumping to offer ways for retailers to serve up promotions on social networks. For example, Context Optional offers a service that enables retailers to offer their Facebook fans coupons directly in their newsfeeds on the network. T-shirt retailer Threadless is considering using the promotion program as a way to collect data about shoppers. It may request information such as a consumer’s e-mail address before it will offer the coupon, the retailer says.

Cosmetics retailer Sephora is combining social media and e-mail by announcing in an e-mail its presence on Facebook. It includes examples of the advice and sharing consumers can get if they become fans, retail consultancy The E-tailing Group says. Balancing this message is a 15% off coupon for use in-store or online.


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