Communiations, marketing

The ROI of email compared to social media advertising

With the rise of businesses selling their products and services online, especially on social media, the market is more flooded than ever and it’s hard for many businesses to see how advertisers are cutting through the noise to make money.

Businesses believe they can get the results they need with free social media activity, but marketers know this is becoming harder as algorithms become more selective and restrictive.

This post provides a combination of online research and personal insight to give you an idea of what you’ll get for your money with an social advertising budget versus an email campaign.


Average Global conversion rates – this is people making from clicking your site to popping an item into their shopping cart, is around 2.5%. In 2016 it was 3%, so it’s steadily decreasing. Average conversion rates are still higher on desktop than on phones or tablets, but mobile device rates are increasing. People tend to browse on their phones and buy on their computers.

Surprisingly, conversion rates are higher for email than any other method. Email conversion is at 4.3%, compared with just over 3% for search and 1.8% for social. It will be interesting so see how the email conversion stats change following the introduction of GDPR.

Social media conversion rates are lower because the customers being targeted don’t already have the intention to buy of affiliation with the brand.

But of course, these figures can only be a guide, because they differ so much depending on the type of customer, how much they already know about you and how far they are down the purchasing decison-making process. Conversions also depend heavily of the quality of ad or email and desirability of the product or service being sold. A rubbish advert won’t magically get lots of people to your website, and a poorly designed website won’t encourage customers to buy from you.

Lead generation

B2B lead generation conversion rates are relatively high, with rates as high as 10% for professional services. Lead conversion is when someone subscribes to your content or contacts you. These rates are a lot lower for travel and non-profit organisations – as low as 3%. However, the quoted rates are for generating leads, not for securing purchases.

Comparing Email, Facebook and Twitter

Opt In Monster has an amazing table comparing the click through rates, conversion rates and lifetime value of customers as a result of Email, Facebook and Twitter targeting. Some wonderful stats for online marketers. It shows that email is far more effective than social on all levels. The main benefit of social is the sharing potential.

It’s important to remember that people tend to see their email as personal and unique, and are happy to receive communications from businesses they’ve given consent to. Adversely, people aren’t receptive to ads on their social media timeline, as they use social for socialising, not for buying.

Bottom line impact

Now down to the bottom line. Industry figures show that email delivers a 42% ROI. Facebook is 22%, Twitter is 17%.

In our new world of GDPR compliance, it’s possible to increase the ROI of your email marketing by making sure your email lists are filled with current or potential customers who are happy to hear from you, then make sure you email responsibly to keep those customers for a lifetime.

Next steps for your business

Based on this research, businesses should take a look at their email databases and develop a clear strategy for generating new and repeat business from these contacts. Businesses without email lists should take steps to begin building them immediately.

In summary, email isn’t dead, in fact in the light of GDPR scaring many businesses away, there’s a real opportunity for responsible marketers to build excellent relationships and generate healthy income using email.


Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly

Smart Insights

Opt In Monster

Snow globe Special Division

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