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Twitter users are more likely to visit online stores… and actually buy stuff

So it seems that all those tweets you see by retailers on Twitter may be working … well, for businesses in the US at least. According to a new study by Twitter and statistics company Compete, Twitter users who see posts from retailers are more likely to visit online stores (and buy things) than your average netizen. Good news for Twitter’s business model.

The US-based study analysed over 2 600 desktop users who were exposed to 665 different retailers (including Apple, Nike, Amazon, Groupon and Walmart) and compared them to 2 600 Twitter users who didn’t see a store’s tweet and yet another 2 600 average internet users.

The tweets that were analysed included a mix of promoted and organic retailer tweets, so the findings can’t conclusively say that paying to increase the reach of tweets is actually working, but it does show that Twitter users are a useful group for retailers to target because they are keen online shoppers and will actually follow through on a tweet all the way to the check-out stage. The sample didn’t include mobile users or those using third-party Twitter clients instead of plain old Twitter.com, but there are some interesting findings.

Users who see a retailer’s tweet are more likely to visit online stores

While some 90% of the general internet users in the study visited online stores, that figure was even higher among Twitter users — 95% and 94% of those who did and didn’t see a retailer’s tweet visited a store respectively. This trend was even more noticeable for niche retailers in industries like toys and hobbies, homeware and office supplies.

twitter advertising niche graph

Users who see a retailer’s tweet are more likely to buy online

The study also found that Twitter users are bigger online shoppers than your average internet user. Just under 27% of US internet users bought something in the two-week period under study, while 33% of Twitter users who didn’t see a retailer’s tweet and 39% of those who did bought something online in the same period.

Again, people who saw a store’s tweet consistently out performed the control groups, as they were more likely to not only visit retailer’s websites but also actually hand over their money for the goods. Twitter’s co-head of ad research, Taylor Schreiner, suggests that retailers make it easier for users by including links that can “streamline the path to purchase and special offers that incentivise taking action.”

twitter niche shopping graph

Users who see many tweets from retailers are more likely to visit online stores… and buy things

Is there no such thing as too many tweets? It seems that the more the Twitter users in the study saw tweets from stores, the more likely it was that they would visit online retailers and buy the things they saw there.

Although the rate of purchase was much lower than the visitor levels, there was an incremental increase in most of the statistics as the users were exposed to more tweets. However, judging from the findings, seeing 2-4 tweets made it less likely for a user to buy something online than it would have seeing 1 or 5+ tweets.

number of tweets graph

The study doesn’t profess to measure causality — so the two companies can’t definitively say that seeing more tweets by retailers actually makes them visit more websites or buy more online, just that from the data, it seems that they are more likely to than users in the control groups. The report has also been normalised to ensure any demographic or behavioural differences didn’t affect the findings, so any external factors besides the exposure to tweets shouldn’t affect the results.

Author | Lauren Granger

Lauren Granger
While studying towards her Bachelor of Journalism degree at Rhodes University, Lauren gave into her fascination with everything digital. As she was more interested in creeping tech sites and Twitter than she was in picking up one of those printed things called 'newspapers', she decided to specialise in... More

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