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New research reveals social media is fast emerging as key retail channel

Jeremy Lim
11 November 2021

The latest research carried out by Savvy, a retail and shopper marketing agency, has revealed how social platforms has picked up pace to become a mainstream shopping channel.

It says that social feeds are quickly becoming the primary source of influence for consumers, with 22% checking their social media feeds at least once an hour, rising to 35% among 18-34 year olds.

The research found that shoppers, especially those aged under 35, are turning to social media as a primary source of retail inspiration. 63% of respondents said they turn to social media for ideas and inspiration, while 67% said that they regularly used social media to find inspiration and recommendations for meals and drinks.

The growth of social media shopping has opened up new opportunities for smaller and challenger brands, with 78% of younger shoppers in the research saying social media makes it easier to find out about new, emerging and interesting brands. In addition, 73% of younger shoppers are already shopping from brand and retailer social posts.

Catherine Shuttleworth, CEO of Savvy, said: "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."

"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%, rising to 73% 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."

By analysing data collected via a UK wide survey of over 1,014 consumers, Savvy found that the rise of Gen Z will not be the only major driver of change in the consumer market. In recent weeks the idea of the metaverse has emerged, following Facebook’s rebranding to Meta.

Alastair Lockhart, Insight Director at Savvy, said: "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% 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."

Comparing its research from 2011, which revealed that only 51% of shoppers had a smartphone, Savvy highlighted the pivotal changes in retail channel, with only 26% of respondents buying anything with their phones compared to 66% in 2021.

With social media platforms playing an integral part in one of the most challenging times the retail sector has ever faced, retailers cannot afford to neglect having a strong omnichannel social presence in their marketing strategy.

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