Laura Pevehouse Thomas

Lies, Damned Lies and Twitter Shopping Statistics


According to a Twitter Advertising Blog post published just prior to the start of the busy holiday shopping season, a recent study found that people who see tweets from retailers are more likely to visit retail websites and make online purchases.

In fact, both the retail-tweet-exposed and the control group in this study were observed to visit retail websites at a higher rate than general Internet users – seeming to imply that Twitter users account for more traffic to online retail than non-Twitter users.
Bar Chart of Twitter Users who Visited a Retail Industry Web Site

This could be viewed with a healthy dose of skeptisim just because the study [full PDF here] was conducted by Compete in partnership with Twitter. But, when a report on Black Friday online sales by IBM comes out saying that commerce site traffic from Twitter accounted for exactly 0.00 percent of Black Friday traffic, well then you really have to wonder.

How could the two be so far apart?

The IBM report was strictly looking at one day’s stats – a day, specifically, when most people are expected to be making in-store purchases instead of online ones. And, IBM says while the average Black Friday online shopper bought 5.6 items per order, that was actually down 40 percent from just a week earlier – indicating less-than-average online shopping on Black Friday than any other day.

For Twitter’s study, Compete used a U.S. internet panel 100 percent comprised of desktop internet users of Twitter.com. These 2,600 panelists were exposed to at least one tweet – organic or promoted – posted by a company in the retail vertical such as Apple, Amazon, Groupon, Pottery Barn and Walmart during the time period of August 1st through October 14th, 2012.

No Twitter third-party applications or mobile phone or tablet users were part of the study, which I think says something about the audience right there. It may be a leap of faith, or my personal predisposition, but I think that desktop internet users are the demographic most likely to be camping out for crazy Black Friday in-store deals instead of shopping online. There is, after all, some research to indicate that smartphone ownership tends to be especially uncommon for less-educated and less-affluent older Americans.

So, perhaps that could explain it.

What do you think? Is it as as Business Insider writes: “Twitter’s impact on ecommerce, it seems, is zero.” Or, is it just a Black Friday anomaly?

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