Email is outperforming social media in terms of selling goods online, according to a new study by marketing data provider Custora.

The study, the first of what Custora says will be a series of reports examining emergent e-commerce customer acquisition trends, is derived from data spanning 72 million customers from 86 U.S. retailers across 14 industries.

“As more retailers move towards a ‘free-to-paid’ subscriber model and rely on third parties to help drive visitors to their sites, email and affiliate channels have seen an explosion in growth over the past few years,” the company says.

Customer acquisition by online retailers via email has quadrupled over the last four years, to about 7 percent, the study says. Meanwhile, customer acquisition via Facebook over the same period has been miniscule, and even worse for Twitter.

The customer lifetime value of customers acquired through Twitter is 23 lower than average when compared with other acquisition channels. CLV refers to the future profit a company expects to earn from a customer throughout his or her relationship with the business, Custora says.

“Overall, the highest-value customers arrive through organic searches,” which is 54 percent higher than average, according to the company. “Surprisingly, customers acquired through Twitter tend to be worth about 23 percent less than average. This may be attributed to the frequency of discounts offered within tweets.”

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