Organic search still leads as the largest channel for online e-commerce customer acquisition, and email as a channel has exploded in growth over the past four years, according to a recent report by Custora.

The study, which examined data from 86 US retailers across 14 industries, found organic search to be the largest source of e-commerce customers (15.8% of all customers acquired), followed by cost-per-click (9.8%). Since 2009, customer acquisition via email has quadrupled, growing to 6.8%. Affiliate referral traffic has also grown significantly, and now accounts for 6.3% of customers acquired.

In contrast, Facebook accounted for just .17% of all e-commerce customers acquired, and Twitter was responsible for less than .01%.

Below, additional key findings from the E-Commerce Customer Acquisition Snapshot.

Customer Lifetime Value

  • Overall, customers with the highest projected lifetime value arrive through organic searches (54% higher than average), according to the study.
  • Customers acquired through Twitter tend to be worth about 23% less than average. This may be attributed to the frequent discounts offered in tweets.

Customer Value by Location

  • The most valuable online shoppers overall tend to come from more rural US states.
  •  However, fashion-focused brands find many of their most valuable customers in coastal urban areas such as New York, Los Angeles, Portland and Boston.

About the research: The report was based on data from 72 million customers who interacted with 86 US retailers across 14 industries. Acquisition channels were determined by using the "utm_medium" tag in Google Analytics.

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Email and Search Deliver More Customers Than Social Media

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image of Ayaz Nanji

Ayaz Nanji is a writer, editor, and a content strategist. He is a co-founder of ICW Media and a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji