Imagine you’re scrolling through Instagram and see an ad for a product you might be interested in.
Even though your first thought is that ad targeting is going too far, you still want to learn more about the product and the company that makes it. So where do you look next?
Do you go directly to their Instagram page, visit their website, search for online reviews, or watch a YouTube unboxing video?
These are the questions we asked 1,000 consumers in our 2022 State of Consumer Trends survey to find out how people behave after discovering a product they might want.
Of course, this will vary dramatically by generation, so we’ll include some statistics broken down by age group as we go along. You can also check out our full report on consumer buying habits by generation for more age-specific insights.
How do consumers want to know about products in 2022?
Consumers are learning about products and their features through a wide variety of channels. Among the most popular are web searches, going to retail stores, television ads, word of mouth and online reviews.
While social media, YouTube ads, unboxing videos and streaming services are less popular when we look at all generations combined, breaking it down by age group paints a very different picture.
Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X are distinguished from Boomers by their preference to learn about products through social media and YouTube ads. Gen Z also favors unboxing videos more than any other generation.
Meanwhile, Gen X and Boomers show a clear preference to learn about products through TV commercials and retail stores. Boomers also favor word of mouth more than any other generation.
But there are also some similarities: learning about products by searching the Internet and through online reviews is popular among all generations.
So let’s dive deeper into each of the most popular channels consumers use to learn about products.
SEO is key to product discovery
36% of consumers prefer to learn about products by doing internet searches, highlighting the importance of optimizing your website for SEO.
Searching the Internet is the number one way to learn about products among all age groups except Gen Z, who prefer to use social media by just 1 percentage point. Although online search is extremely popular among all age groups, it gradually gains more favor with each older generation.
Since we know consumers search the web to better understand products and their features, it’s also key to have an idea of what devices they are using to create the best user experience.
Not only are mobile phones the preferred device for over 50% of consumers when searching for a question online, they are also the most used device when shopping online.
Especially when it comes to the younger generations, using mobile devices for search doesn’t do searches on a computer, which means you should optimize your website to be mobile first.
Retail is still relevant, especially for older generations
Second, 27% of consumers say they prefer to learn about products in retail stores. Unsurprisingly, the in-person approach is more popular among older age groups, though it’s not completely lost on Gen Z and is still favored by nearly one in five Millennials.
TV ads are key for boomers and Gen Xers
One in four consumers say TV commercials are their favorite way to learn more about a product and its features. TV ads rank among the three most preferred channels for product awareness for Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, but lose favor with Gen Z and millennials who strongly prefer other digital channels like social media .
Word of mouth is relevant, but Gen Z looks to influencers
23% of consumers say they prefer to learn about products through word of mouth. Interestingly, word of mouth is in the top 5 channels for learning about products for all generations except Gen Z. Our 2022 Consumer Shopping Report even found that Gen Z places the most importance on the recommendations of influencers than to their friends and family.
All generations look for online reviews
One in five consumers say they prefer to learn about products through online reviews, regardless of generation. Of course, whether they go to YouTube, Amazon reviews, or a dedicated blog to get these stats will depend on their age.
Social media is key for Gen Z and millennials
Overall, only 17% of consumers say that social media is their preferred channel for learning about products and their features. However, social media ranks #1 for Gen Z, #2 for millennials, and #4 for Gen Xers.
Next, we take a look at how consumers want to learn about products on social media.
Feed posts, ads, and stories are the three main formats for product awareness on social media. 36% of consumers want to learn about products through short videos like TikToks or Reels, and another 27% prefer to go through influencers, which is especially popular among younger generations.
You can also ask yourself what kind of content consumers want to see from brands on social media.
Almost half of consumers say that funny content is the most memorable, followed by relatable content. Making content that showcases your product or service is also highly memorable for 36% of consumers.
YouTube ads are key for Gen Z and millennials
Overall, only 13% of consumers say they prefer to learn about a product and its features through YouTube ads, but the video platform is among the top channels for Gen Z and millennials.
Unboxing videos are a Gen Z thing
Although only 9% of consumers prefer to learn about a product and its features through unboxing videos, they are especially popular with Gen Z.
Make sense of consumer data
Want to learn more about the latest trends and shopping habits consumers are navigating and how your brand can leverage them to better achieve your goals in 2022?
Check out our Consumer Shopping Report, as well as our State of the Consumer Trends Report, which will be released at the end of July.
In the meantime, see how marketers are navigating 2022 with our State of Marketing Trends report below.