Just in time for the holidays, study says Twitter boosts retail sales

It’s cheaper than a roadside billboard. And it doesn’t require expensive air time on network TV.

Those are just a couple of reasons why Twitter may be the next advertising powerhouse.

That’s according to a study released Tuesday – and paid for by Twitter – that shows the San Francisco-based social media king is driving consumers to buy more online.

So listen up, retailers: If you Tweet, the shoppers will follow.

The study was conducted by Compete, the market research division of Boston-based Kantar Media company, and in case you missed it the first time, paid for by Twitter. It analyzed more than 7,600 users and their site visitation and purchases on about 700 retail brand websites during the busy back-to-school season. Some of the big-name retailers used in the study were Apple, Amazon, Groupon, Pottery Barn and Walmart.

Large or small, retailers all over the world reach customers on Twitter with ads and promotions, but also through more creative connections. Take for example Macy’s, which, from one of its four or so Twitter handles, Tweeted on Tuesday about the upcoming Thanksgiving parade, Black Friday deals and ways to help victims of Superstorm Sandy. Sweepstakes, trends, prizes and industry chatter are all over the Twittersphere, and according to the study, consumers are using these retail-generated tweets to decide where and how to shop.

Among the findings: Shoppers/Tweeters who are exposed to retail Tweets are slightly more likely  to visit retail websites than regular Internet users. Some of the biggest differences were in office supplies, housewares and toys.

Active Tweeters are also more likely to break out the credit card. Shoppers who see retail Tweets are about 45% more likely to make a purchase from an online retailer than those who don’t use Twitter.

Twitter has been eager to solidify its place in the advertising world, and the study suggests it’s well on its way. The growing popularity of promoted Tweets, which are generally less annoying than mobile ads, have helped retailers get their message out to more consumers.

And the booming m-commerce market has certainly worked to Twitter’s advantage. The social media company’s surge on mobile has nicely paralleled the uptick in consumers shopping from their smartphones, while retail apps and payment apps like PayPal make mobile purchases easy.

Twitter is crowded with holiday shopping tweets, and the hashtag-heavy traffic will only pick up. (No doubt, Twitter carefully planned the timing of this study’s release, just two days before stores open for Black Friday.) Wait and see, but it may be the retail advertising business that pushes Twitter, which is on track to earn about $350 million in revenue this year, into the billion-dollar range sooner than some expected.

Heather Somerville Heather Somerville (192 Posts)

Heather Somerville reports on consumer affairs, retail and technology for the Bay Area News Group. She lives in San Francisco, where she enjoys rock climbing, yoga and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge.