How Shoppers Are Using Social Media

Over the last 20 years, there have been some seismic shifts in shopper behavior. The shopping environment has ripened for social media, thanks to the rise of e-commerce and the continued decline of brick-and-mortar traffic, as well as growing shopper promiscuity and demand for personalized experiences. We can see it in the investments that advertisers are making — according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, ad spending on social media will reach $41.5 billion in 2020. That’s 30% of total internet ad revenue!

However, the social media industry continues to experience platform churn. Do you remember Myspace? How many Gen X shoppers use TikTok, which only recently entered the international market? Brands cannot approach their social media marketing strategy with the mindset of “set it and forget it.” Buyers regularly update which systems they use, how often they use them, and, most significantly, how they use the platforms’ functions in their shopping. To achieve success, the approach should be adaptable.

Two-thirds of shoppers use social media to do some shopping

This spring, we conducted a 6,000-respondent survey to gauge the pulse of today’s shoppers and serve as the foundation for our new Shopper Influence Research program. It discovered that roughly two-thirds of today’s shoppers use social media as part of their shopping strategy. YouTube remains the market leader, with half of the shoppers saying they use the content on the platform to research their purchases. Facebook and Instagram are not far behind. If you aren’t already incorporating video content into your marketing strategy, you should start now. You can also go for VZZR.

Our research also discovered that one-third of shoppers seek out social media influencers to learn about products. That’s a higher percentage than say, Twitter, Snapchat, or Pinterest, the inspiration gold mine! Influencer marketing is still an important component of any online marketing strategy.

Generational Differences in Usage

When it comes to using social media, let alone using those platforms for shopping, there are some significant generational differences. Only 23% of baby boomers said they shop on social media, compared to 77% of millennials and Gen Z. Furthermore, Facebook is less popular among younger shoppers, with Generation Z preferring Snapchat, TikTok, or Instagram.

Shoppers Use Social Media Later in the Shopping Process

The times when customers use social media platforms during their journey vary as well. We discovered that when looking for hard facts or general inspiration, shoppers are more likely to turn to YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest at the start of their shopping process.

However, the importance of social platforms in the purchasing process does not end with the transaction. While the majority of post-purchase sharing occurs in the shopper’s immediate surroundings, they also use those platforms to follow up. More than 16% say they will like or follow a brand on social media if they are satisfied with their purchase, and a similar percentage are willing to post about it or write a consumer review.

So, what does all of this mean for businesses in need of a well-executed social media strategy?

Today, smart marketing entails directing your social media advertising to meet your customers where they already are: on apps or platforms.

• Spend time learning about the content or product features that your social media customers want to see. They are a distinct subset of your overall customer base, so tailor your advertising to their preferences.

• Create content that is extremely shareable, so that when your customers want to talk about your products with their networks, they can do so easily. This includes content that customers can interact with after they make a purchase.

The macroeconomic and demographic trends indicate that more of the shopping process will take place on social media and other similar platforms. To stay ahead of the curve, brands that implement adaptive, research-driven strategies now will be successful in the space.

Do Customers Buy Products on Social Media?

On social media, there are now more options for purchasing products than ever before. However, because some social media shopping tools are still relatively new to both shoppers and brands, you might believe that consumers have barely used them.

However, when we inquired, Have you ever bought something from a social media platform? If so, which(s)? More than half of consumers had bought a product on at least one platform.

9 percent of the 49.5 percent of respondents who haven’t purchased a product directly from a social media platform said they plan to do so eventually, while 40.5 percent prefer to buy products from e-commerce websites.

Finally, while social media shopping features are still relatively new to consumers, they may make sense for brands looking for a scalable way to enter the world of e-commerce.

In the midst of all the excitement that social media commerce brings, it’s critical to brush up on how you can build trust with your customers as a marketer. To learn more, watch our video guide on the social scams to avoid.

Which social media platforms do customers actually shop on?


More than one-third of those polled had purchased a product directly from Facebook.

It’s not surprising that Facebook is popular for online shopping. Users flocked to Facebook Marketplace even before the 2020 launch of Facebook Shops to find items or products being sold by nearby residents, independent sellers, or even local stores.


Despite the fact that the majority of Instagram’s shopping features were added after the launch of Facebook Shops, nearly a quarter of respondents have purchased products on Instagram.


While WhatsApp, which is also owned by Facebook, does not have its own shopping platform, users can still chat with brands, request a product from the company’s WhatsApp for Business catalog, and pay for it directly in the message thread.

Until recently, Pinterest — Some of the products seen on Pinterest could be purchased directly from the Pinterest app. It’s worth noting that it launched and then discontinued its tool before Facebook and Instagram did. Between 2015 and 2018, Pinterest allowed brands to create Buyable Pins, which allowed you to buy pinned products directly from the app. There was a blue “Buy It” button next to each Buyable Pin’s “Save” button. When users tapped it, they were taken directly to a Pinterest purchasing screen.