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Social Media Is the 'Least Effective' Path to Traffic

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Thousands of likes, dozens of comment, and less than 2% of traffic. Images via <a href="http://web.stagram.com/n/donnakarandkny/">@DKNYandDonnaKaran/Instagram</a>
Thousands of likes, dozens of comment, and less than 2% of traffic. Images via @DKNYandDonnaKaran/Instagram

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All those grams and pins fashion brands are cranking out? They may be getting thousands of likes, but they're not resulting in traffic. L2 think tank's new department store index states unequivocally that social media is flat out the "least effective" way to get people to your website.

L2's editorial director Johanna Cox summarizes in a blog post: "Though it varies retailer to retailer, Facebook and Twitter and YouTube—and all the rest, combined—refer just 1.9% of department stores' site traffic."

Search (or search engine optimization, also known as SEO) continues to be by far the most effective traffic driver. L2 reports that the top 40 global department stores currently control 48% of first-page organic search results and and 36% of paid search results.

Smartly, department stores have also optimized their sites for the brands they carry. When you search Google for Michael Kors, for example, Macy's shows up high on the first page, right after Michael Kors' own sites.

What social media has proven itself effective at doing is making luxury brands accessible to a younger audience and strengthening a brand's lifestyle content. You need look no further than the wildly popular Twitter feeds of DKNY's Aliza Licht and Oscar de la Renta's Erika Bearman for examples of that.

The predictable fallout of that popularity, though, is that as brands pile resources and cash into social media efforts, they're also come under more pressure to get a return on their investment. When Oscar de la Renta relaunched their website last year, part of the plan was to see if Bearman could drive sales. (We don't have any data from ODLR on the success of that initiative, but according to all the reports we've read, luxury brands are having as much trouble as everyone else converting popularity on social platforms into sales.)

Anyway, what's really fascinating here is how dramatically opposite this trend is from what everyone was predicting a few years ago. Three or four years ago, it was assumed pretty much across the board that it was only a matter of time until Facebook overtook Google as the top traffic referrer. That hasn't happened, and according to this report from L2, it doesn't look like it's headed that way any time soon. So it will be interesting to see how long the industry continues to invest in these platforms before deciding it's not worth the cash.
· Search Trumps Social Media: Department Stores Edition [L2]
· How Did Macy's Beat Net-a-Porter in L2's Latest Digital Ranking? [Racked]
· As Brands Put More Resources Into Social Media, You Can Expect a Harder Sell [Racked]