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In 2014, Susan Philips was among the first to put forward a revolutionary new idea: in the near future, we won’t search for products; companies will find us through social media.
This was probably hard to imagine back then, at a time when most people started their shopping experience on Google or Amazon. If you wanted to land more online sales, you’d focus on using good keywords in your product descriptions.
The aim of the game has always been to get in front of customers where they’re searching, but today, we’re playing on a different pitch.
This has big implications for many online retailers, who now need to rethink their approach to succeeding online.
This open-ended style of browsing is both a product of TikTok and the reason it’s so popular. 16-24s were the first users of the app, known for its highly personalized algorithm and exciting visuals, and we can see the effect it’s had on them.
While Gen Z are more likely to buy online than baby boomers, they’re less likely to describe purchasing as a top benefit of the internet (25% vs 44%); instead, community/interests are worth a whole lot more (23% vs 10%). In other words, younger audiences start their search from a place of curiosity and expect to be led down a fun rabbit hole of new ideas, rather than directed to a list of brands or products.
Many older consumers, who have firm expectations around using the internet, will keep relying on search engines. But we’re not likely to backtrack on the direction we’re headed, especially as newer generations take more control of the narrative.
These visual results are persuasive because they showcase real people and their views, a powerful quality that’s doing wonders for the world of ecommerce.
In industries like fashion, shoppers feel the effects of not being able to try before they buy more heavily and may be in two minds about relying on written reviews. Especially when buying from a budget retailer, people might wonder if online items are too good to be true, which is where user-generated content can help.
Impulse buying isn’t purely practical among older consumers, and many do add last-minute surprises to their cart just because they fancy a treat. But deals and whether they have a clear use case for an item matter more.
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