Social media web sites are playing an increasingly important role in driving traffic to other web sites, including retail and other social networking sites, and this growth comes at the expense of search engines and portal web sites, according to research from Experian Marketing Services. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

The study found that, as of March 2014, social media sites account for 7.72% of all traffic to retail web sites, up from 6.59% in March 2013. Furthermore, Pinterest, more than Facebook or YouTube, is supplying the greatest percentage of downstream traffic to retail sites.

"While search still dominates, social media is becoming a significant source of traffic across the Internet as consumers increasingly use sites like Facebook, Pinterest or YouTube more as discovery platforms," said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research for Experian Marketing Services. "Many of today's marketers are leveraging the power of social communities to increase customer engagement and expand their brand's reach. For retailers, all eyes are on Pinterest."

According to the report, more retailers are directing their customers to social media within their email campaigns; 96% of marketers now promote social media in their emails, and in 2013, Pinterest had the greatest year-over-year increase. Pinterest is now being promoted by 64% of brands within emails.

Amazon.com is the top source of downstream traffic from Pinterest, Facebook and YouTube After visiting Facebook, YouTube or Pinterest, consumers are visiting Amazon.com more frequently than any other retailer Website.

The top five retail sites downstream from Facebook are:

  1. Amazon.com
  2. Walmart
  3. Zulily
  4. Target
  5. Beyond the Rack

The top five retail sites downstream from Youtube are:

  1. Amazon.com
  2. Walmart
  3. GameStop
  4. Crutchfield
  5. Target

The top five retail sites downstream from Pinterest are:

  1. Amazon.com
  2. Target
  3. Zulily
  4. Walmart
  5. Nordstrom

"Social media continues to grow as an influential source of traffic for retail sites, and it's important that marketers understand what is driving customers to their Web page," said Tancer. "Amazon is clearly benefitting from this trend across all of the major social networks. Meanwhile, gaming and electronic retailers GameStop and Crutchfield are top downstream sites for YouTube, which is likely due to enthusiasts sharing videos of game performance and setup, and how-to videos for electronic enthusiasts."

In addition, social media web sites increasingly are responsible for driving traffic to other social sites. Upstream traffic from social networking web sites rose 20% in 2013 over 2012. Despite still driving the greatest share of traffic to social networking sites at 39.1%, search engines' share declined 13% year-over-year.