How consumers find new brands and products on social media, marketplaces, and brick-and-mortar retail in 5 charts

Social media is important in product discovery, especially among younger consumers, but it’s only part of the picture—marketplaces, search engines, and brick-and-mortar retail also influence where and how consumers find new products.

Here are five charts on what brands need to know about product discovery across digital and physical channels.

1. Younger consumers turn to social media, family, and friends

Over two-thirds (67%) of US 16-to 24-year-olds say they’ve learned about a product or service through a social media video that organically entered their feed, according to a November 2023 survey from 5WPR.

However, nearly as many (61%) say they’ve discovered a product or service via a friend or family member. Word of mouth is still a powerful tool for brands.

2. Gen Z trusts user-generated content, especially from creators

Gen Z and millennials are more likely to discover new products or services through user-generated content than older generations, per an April 2023 Deloitte report. Brands targeting younger audiences may succeed with content creators. Gen Zers and millennials are more likely to trust or buy products recommended by creators they like or follow.

3. Where consumers start their online shopping journey varies

Social media is just one part of the discovery mix. Online marketplaces or search engines are the top places where US consumers start their shopping journey, so it's key that brands use those channels to promote discovery, namely through search and display ads.

This year, US retail media ad spend on display and search formats will total $59.61 billion, nearly 20% of total digital ad spend, per our forecast.

4. Consumers are receptive to ads on shopping, news, and social sites

Apart from shopping and social media platforms, consumers are most receptive to ads on news and entertainment sites, according to Q3 2023 data from Integral Ad Science.

To help advertisers expand their ad reach beyond retail platforms, some retail media networks have partnered with media companies to offer off-site ad placements. For example, Walmart Connect partnered with Roku on connected TV ads, while Amazon Ads teamed with Pinterest to offer Amazon Sponsored Product ads on the social platform.

5. Consumers shop differently across categories

Most US adults want quick in-store and online grocery shopping experiences, according to November 2023 data from Kearney. However, when it comes to shopping for clothes and shoes, they prefer to browse a bit, particularly online.

Brands looking to increase discoverability in channels where consumers prioritize speed must embed chances to find new products throughout the shopping journey without adding more time or complexity to the customer experience.


This was originally featured in the Retail Daily newsletter. For more retail insights, statistics, and trends, subscribe here.

"Behind the Numbers" Podcast