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5 Stats That Show How Gen Z & Millennials Are Primed to Shop on Social Media

These stats show how young consumers are ready to shop on social platforms—and why brands need to start thinking of social media as their new storefront…


Our Shoppability research explored all of the ways that the world is becoming one big showroom for young consumers. From shoppable articles to snap to shop apps, technology is rising to meet their dream that everything in life will have a link to purchase it. One of the biggest areas of opportunity for brands in this shoppable era is social media: we found that 51% of 18-36-year-olds and 44% of 13-17-year-olds had actively tried to find and purchase something that they had seen on social media. Since we first started exploring the trend, social media has only gotten more shoppable. Snapchat has integrated a visual search that lets users scan real-life items to see a card that gives them the information for that item or similar products, along with its price, reviews score, and a link to buy on Amazon. Pinterest has rolled out shoppable pins that let users “long press” an image to see related products available to buy from a variety of retailers. Facebook’s COO reports that 90 million people click on Instagram product tags each month, and they’ve made major changes to turn the platform into a virtual catalog. Instagram has not only added shoppable tags to stories, but also shopping list features for all users, and in-app purchasing capabilities via Instagram Checkout. Tubefilter reports that Adidas actually attributed a first quarter spike in sales to Checkout, which allows users to shop, purchase, and track shipping without leaving the app. Adidas was one of the first brands to Beta-test the feature, and the athletic brand’s CEO reports that online sales jumped 40% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2019, specifically calling out Instagram Checkout’s role in the rise.

One major reason brands need to start thinking about social media as the new storefront is the sheer amount of time that young consumers are spending on social platforms. According to our 2019 social media behavior survey, they’re spending an average of 3 hours on social media every day. (Actually, 18-24-year-olds report spending even more time on social daily: an average of 4 hours.) And all the time they’re spending on social apps has primed them to start shopping there. We combed through some of our most recent surveys and found five stats that show how Gen Z and Millennials are ready to click to buy on social media:

1. Half of young consumers already browse through social media to find things they want to buy.

Gen Z and Millennials are already treating social media as a modern-day catalog. Our most recent social media behavior survey found that 53% of 13-36-year-olds say they browse through social media to find things they want to buy. Gen Z is even more likely than Millennials to agree with that statement, with 60% of 13-17-year-olds saying they browse social media to find products. It makes sense—after all, their feeds are being curated to their tastes thanks to super-smart algorithms that know exactly what to serve up. We’ve looked at the increasing influence that Instagram has on their purchases, noting that young consumers are seeing a variety of brands in their feeds that they’re likely not seeing on TV, and these are the type of disruptors that already appeal to their interest in novelty and innovation. YPulse research also shows that that social media is their top source of fashion inspiration. It’s natural that they would begin to see social platforms as go-to sources for finding interesting, new products to buy.

2. Almost three in five are interested in being able to purchase items directly from social media feeds like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

The majority (58%) of 13-37-year-old consumers tell us they are interested in social shopping, and purchasing items directly from their social media feeds. Interestingly, males are even more likely than females to agree with this statement—perhaps indicating that they’re more likely to want convenient and seamless ways to shop, without actually interrupting their everyday activities to get what they want. As mentioned above, social platforms are making this desire more of a reality with every update, and Instagram has arguably made the most progress in social shopping by allowing all elements of a transaction to take place without young consumers ever having to leave the app.

3. The majority agree if you are posting a social media ad, there should be a direct link to purchase.

If they’re browsing social media for things to buy, they want brands to make it easy to buy them: Over four in five say that social media ads should have direct links to purchase the items in them. It’s a big watch out for brands–your posts and ads need to be “click-to-buy” functional to capture these young shoppers, who expect instant gratification. We’ve talked about young consumers’ lack of patience, with our research on the topic finding that 54% of 13-35-year-olds think that brands should cut out as many steps in the buying process as possible.

4. Over a third are open to buying products on Instagram, and on Facebook.

Our social/mobile marketing preferences survey revealed that 62% of 13-36-year-olds are open to buying products on social media. What platforms are they most open to making purchases on? Unsurprisingly, Instagram tops the list with 37% of 13-37-year-olds open to buying items on the visual platform. But Facebook is very close behind, with 34% saying they’re open to buying products there. There is a significant generation gap at work here though: 46% of Gen Z say they’re open to buying on Instagram, and only 22% are open to buying on Facebook. Meanwhile, Millennials are actually slightly more open to buying on Facebook, with 38% saying they would purchase products there, versus 34% on Instagram.

5. Over half say the last ad they saw that made them want to purchase something was on social media.

As mentioned above, social media is a go-to source for product inspiration, and they want their ads to be instant portals to make purchases. That’s likely because the ads they’re seeing on social media are the ones that are making them want to buy. In our ad/marketing effectiveness survey, over half (55%) of 13-36-year-olds told us that the last ad they saw that made them want to purchase something was on social media. That’s compared to 12% who said that ad was on on TV, 10% online/mobile, 5% on a streaming service. In other words, social media ads are more likely to inspire them to buy by a landslide. And their effectiveness only seems to be increasing: 55% named social media as the location of the last ad that made them want to buy something in 2019, compared to 40% who said the same in 2018.