January 30, 2012, 11:48 AM

Social media helps big retailers drive traffic during the holidays

A new analysis suggests Wal-Mart earned $417,000 worth of impressions.

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Some of the largest players in e-commerce—Amazon.com Inc., Best Buy Co. Inc., Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.—found ways to increase the number of consumers who clicked from social media sites to their retail sites during the holiday season, according to an analysis by social marketing vendor Buddy Media and web measurement firm comScore Inc. The report is based on data gathered via comScore’s Social Essentials measurement service.

14.5% of Amazon.com’s traffic on the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, came from social sites, up from 9.0% in 2010. Best Buy’s upstream traffic from social sites increased to 6.6% from 4.1% in 2010, Wal-Mart’s to 9.6% from 7.3%,  and Target’s to 5.1% compared with 4.6%.

In part, that growth was thanks to holiday promotions on social media; when consumers see a message that resonates with them, they are more likely to share that message with their friends, which can vastly multiply the number of impressions that a post receives. The report shows that Target had the highest lift in a comparison of the weeks ending Oct. 19 and Nov. 30, at 3.5 times. That is, the number of its posts that were shared increased 3.5 times the number shared during the corresponding week the month earlier. Wal-Mart was close behind at 3.4 times, Best Buy had a lift of 2.7 times and Amazon posed a jump of 2.2 times.

That sharing behavior is increasingly valuable, says the analysis. For instance, using an average cost per thousand impressions, or CPM, of $3.55, Wal-Mart earned $417,000 worth of impressions.

The analysis counters other reports that suggested social media had little impact on retailers’ holiday sales. For instance, a report based on responses from 1,000 online holiday shoppers surveyed by Baynote Inc. found that 80.2% of respondents said their online social connections had no influence on their holiday purchase decisions.

Amazon.com is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Best Buy is No. 11, Target is No. 22 and Wal-Mart is No. 6.

Chris Bolte, vice president, demand generation for @WalmartLabs, a Wal-Mart-owned research lab based in Silicon Valley that works on creating social network and mobile technology that could tie together online shoppers and the chain’s stores, is a featured speaker at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in Chicago in June. He will speak in a session entitled “Creating innovation: How to find fresh tech ideas in your own organization.” Lynn Lanphier, director, digital analytics for Best Buy, will speak in  a session entitled “The new age of analytics: Creating a data strategy that leads to increased sales.”

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