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Social Media is becoming a key retail channel

Social media as a key retail channel

New research (across 1,000 UK shoppers) from leading retail and shopper marketing agency, Savvy, has revealed how social media is fast emerging as a key retail channel. The findings indicate that shopping using social platforms will pick up pace substantially over the next five years to become a mainstream channel, as Gen Z grow up to become adults and the core target retail audience.

The research looks back at the key differences between 2011 and today, to celebrate 10 years of Savvy’s Shopper Panel.

Key retail channel: Social Media

The research found that shoppers, especially those aged under 35, are turning to social media as a primary source of retail inspiration, making it a key retail channel. 63 per cent of Gen Y/Z shoppers said in the research that social media was their first port of call for ideas and inspiration, while 67 per cent of Gen Y/Z said that they regularly used social media to find inspiration for meals and food. 66 per cent used social media to look for ideas and inspiration for gifts.

This growth in social media shopping is opening up new opportunities for smaller and challenger brands, with 78 per cent of younger shoppers in the research saying social media makes it easier to find out about new, small and interesting brands. “Over recent years we’ve seen thousands of new brands, born on social channels, enter the market and flourish. Unlike big brands, the success of these businesses is based on innovation, creativity, and relevance, rather than the size of their marketing budgets. Retailing through social channels is far more democratic than store-based and traditional online retailing,” said Catherine Shuttleworth, CEO of Savvy.

“In 2017 only one in 10 of us had clicked on a ‘shop now’ or ‘buy now’ button on social media. Now, that has increased to 56 per cent, rising to 73 per cent among Gen Y and Gen Z.  As Gen Y drove the smartphone retail revolution in the past five years, we can see how Gen Z will drive the social retail revolution over the next five years.”

The metaverse heralds more disruptive change ahead in digital retail

When planning for the next five years, the rise of Gen Z will not be the only major driver of change. In recent weeks, the idea of the metaverse has come to the fore, making front page news, following Facebook’s rebranding to Meta.

Alastair Lockhart, Insight Director at Savvy Comments: “As we consider the online retailing environment of the future, the metaverse is where we should look. It is the next incarnation of social media which will provide virtual 3D spaces where people cannot only interact with each other, play and learn, but shop in new interesting ways. Already, from pretty much a standing start, we find that a quarter of UK shoppers are aware of the metaverse and, of them, 60 per cent believe they understand what it is. This is not simply an evolution, this would require retailers to fundamentally rethink how they present themselves, how they communicate what they stand for, and how they sell.”

More key findings:

Highlighting how important social media has become in recent times as a key retail channel:

  • 92 per cent of respondents had used social media in the past month.
  • 22 per cent check their social media feeds at least once an hour, rising to 35 per cent among 18-34 year olds.

Social feeds are influencing what we eat and drink. In the past month:

  • 49 per cent have followed a recipe they saw on social (62 per cent for 18-34s).
  • 48 per cent watched video about food and drink (64 per cent for 18-34s).
  • 35 per cent have asked their social contacts to recommend somewhere to eat or drink (51 per cent for 18-34s)
  • 33 per cent posted a picture of food they were about to eat (rising to 45 per cent for 18-34s) and 32 per cent posted a picture of a drink (rising to 46 per cent for 18-34s)

Celebrating 10 years of Savvy’s Shopper Panel

“Every month during the past decade, we’ve questioned a representative sample of 1,000 shoppers, to gauge their perspectives, motivations, plans and preferences. Analysed by our in-house insight team, the Shopper Panel has tracked everything from major events and trends like Brexit, COVID 19 and the emergence of gen Y and Z as key audiences, to the fine details of favourite brands and shoppers’ views on specific ideas and innovations.

As part of the celebrations, our team of analysts has looked back at our first research from 2011, and a quick glimpse shows us just how much things have changed,”  Lockhart commented.

Consumer differences: then and now

While social media may have become a key retail channel, there are plenty of significant changes to consumers’ behaviour and priorities in the last decade:

  • In 2011 only 51 per cent of shoppers had a smartphone (91 per cent now)
  • 33 per cent had ever watched video on their mobile (90 per cent now)
  • 51 per cent had ever streamed or downloaded music (90 per cent now)
  • Just over quarter (26 per cent) had ever bought anything with their phones (66 per cent regularly do in 2021)
  • 55 per cent of us were concerned about climate change (85 per cent now)
  • Social media use was dominated by Facebook, with Instagram having only just celebrated its first birthday, while SnapChat had just been launched and Tik Tok was yet to be invented
  • Only four per cent had done a main weekly shop at Aldi (14 per cent do every week now)
  • When asked about their concerns, in 2011 shoppers told us their biggest worries were the cost of energy, the cost of food and government cutbacks. 10 years later and COVID-19, sustainability and energy prices head the list
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