By Michelle Graff
Washington, D.C.--Retailers are putting more of their marketing dollars into social media, particularly paid posts, to attract new customers, a recent study shows.

The State of Online Retailing 2015, conducted by a division of the National Retail Federation and others, revealed that while paid search and email marketing topped most retailers’ list of methods they use to acquire customers, 25 percent did say that Facebook is their No. 1 customer acquisition platform.

In addition, 58 percent said they’re increasing year-over-year spending on social media marketing, second only to companies that are spending more on search engine marketing (63 percent.)

“It was not a surprise that search and email marketing tools are still powerful, but to further engage consumers, retailers understand that using complementary marketing channels, including the use of social media, makes a tremendous difference in reaching new markets and diversifying their outreach,” said Vicki Cantrell, senior vice president of the NRF and executive director at, a division of the NRF.

When it comes to paid social media posts, half of retailers said they are spending more this year than last year on paid Facebook options, such as promoted posts and paid ads.

YouTube came in second, with 29 percent saying they will spend more on paid options on that site, followed by Pinterest (27 percent), Twitter (22 percent), Instagram (20 percent) and Snapchat (6 percent).

“With so much marketing ‘noise’ and competition these days, retailers are testing and investing in a variety of acquisition media to appeal to their customers and to make the most effective use of their tight marketing budgets,” Cantrell said.

RELATED CONTENT: How to craft and effective social media plan

Additional highlights of the study include the following.
--Surveyed retailers said they are exploring online retail marketplaces (such as Amazon, Etsy and Alibaba), ranking those fifth in effectiveness among customer acquisition tools.

--Retailers are prioritizing website redesigns for smartphones (55 percent), tablets (46 percent) and desktops (41 percent), as well as enhancing product pages and improving the checkout process across devices.

The State of Online Retailing is a research series, and, Forrester Research Inc. and Bizrate Insights conducted the 2015 edition. They surveyed 240 companies in May and June in the apparel, footwear, general merchandise, home furnishings and personal care industries.

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