Ten years ago, social shopping might have meant running into a friend at the store. Social media is constantly redefining how we communicate, learn and connect with our communities, and now it’s redefining how we shop. As commerce migrates from physical communities to virtual ones, customer values and preferences are coming with them. By 2025 alone, social shopping is set to become a $1.2 trillion channel.

We asked 1,000 US consumers how they plan on social shopping in 2022. This data report outlines their preferences, perceptions and attitudes about social commerce.

The future of social commerce

The future of social commerce is already here with 68% of consumers making at least one purchase directly from social media in 2021.

Whether shoppers are expanding their local purchasing opportunities or engaging in their virtual communities to buy across borders, they’re turning to Facebook Shops, Instagram Shopping, and TikTok Shopping.

And social shopping isn’t slowing down—98% of consumers plan to make at least one purchase through social shopping or influencer commerce in 2022.

Where consumers buy on social

Social media has turned into a digital mall where customers can socialize while they shop by interacting with peers, brands and creators. And just like a physical mall, the more time they spend browsing, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

In 2022, consumers plan on shopping through the platforms where they feel the most comfortable. Digitally immersed Gen Z shoppers are most excited about visual-first social networks like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, while Baby Boomers anticipate upping their purchases on Facebook. Women are looking forward to clicking “submit order” on TikTok and Pinterest, while men are hoping they’ll find their next must-have item on Twitter and Twitch.

Table showing which social platforms consumers anticipate using to purchase 2022

How social shoppers find the perfect purchase

Shoppers use social media as a trusted advisor in the same way they’d tap Google or a friend’s recommendation before buying something from a brick-and-mortar store or a traditional e-commerce vendor. They might look for more information about a company or product on Instagram or Reddit as part of their buying process, or look into products their existing network recommends.

Chart showing common ways consumers find the perfect product to buy on social

Brands play an even bigger role in guiding customers to all of the essential items. More people find a product directly from the brand that sells it than they do through peers, influencers, or their own research. Expertly targeted ads are powerful, but organic posts also go a long way.

Our audience engages with organic social content that feels real. We take our photos on iPhones to feel natural and ‘not as polished’ for Instagram. We meet our customers where they are and work with influencers who share their everyday style. Our audience wants to see real people wearing us, whether that’s on our social channels or the influencers we work with.
Andrea Howard
Senior Manager of Social Media & Influencer Marketing, Kendra Scott

What influences consumer buying behavior

When customers shop on social, they still turn to friends to help them with their final decisions.

A graphic showing the top factors that impact consumers' purchases on social

Friends are the ultimate influencers for consumers aged 18-40, with influencers as a close second. Parasocial relationships spiked among Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X during pandemic lockdowns and customers have come to trust influencers in the same way they trust their friends. Baby Boomers, who haven’t embraced influencers to the same extent, trust friends and family the most.

Parasocial relationships between consumers and influencers have become a key driver of purchase intention. Influencers commit to putting their followers first and to cultivating communities of consumers with shared passions and interests. In turn, consumers look to influencers for credible recommendations and honest product reviews. Parasocial relationships remove friction from the purchase process by saving consumers time and making influencers the go-to experts.
Dr. Jenna Drenten
Department Chair & Associate Professor of Marketing, Loyola University Chicago

Trust–whether from a friend’s recommendation or influencer content–is a powerful motivator. A lack of established trust may explain why crowdsourced comments or product reviews from strangers have the smallest impact on a decision to buy a product.

Brand awareness creates a community that generates word of mouth buzz, ‘I love this product, and I know you will too.’ Your community knows what their friends and family like. Your audience becomes a pipeline to your most relevant customer in the exact moment their friends and family need your product. That is the power of brand awareness.
Akeeme Hogg
Social Media and Email Marketing Lead, ServiceMaster Brands

Inclusivity also matters to social shoppers, with 60% reporting that they’re more likely to buy from a brand with inclusive marketing. That might mean featuring different races, ethnicities or gender identities in their ads and feeds. These shoppers want their online communities to reflect the diversity of their physical community. Inclusivity is especially important to younger shoppers, with 73% of Gen Z and 72% of Millennials citing this as a purchase factor.

Graphic showing the extent to which brand inclusivity matters to consumers when buying on social, by age group

What the new path to purchase looks like

As social shoppers enter 2022, they’re diving deeper into their online communities and embracing emerging platform features. The different ways your customers engage are a window into how their product discovery and buying journey unfolds.

Chart showing which social features consumers use currently and anticipate using more in 2022

Livestreams are the most popular feature on platforms–and also a great predictor of who plans to buy on social. The majority (71%) of livestream watchers have bought something on social, and 48% anticipate buying more through in-platform shopping features in 2022. But the impact depends on your audience. More than half of Gen X shoppers (61%) expect to tune in to live video over the coming year, compared to only 44% of Gen Zers.

A streamlined in-platform shopping experience is key in 2022, with 45% of shoppers getting excited about buying directly from their favorite platforms. Gen Z is the most primed to use this feature, with 52% ready to press the purchase button, but everyone looks forward to a more efficient discovery and shopping experience.

Chart showing generational usage of virtual/augmented reality and in-app social shopping features

As the metaverse begins to take shape, how prepared consumers are for a virtual reality or augmented reality shopping cart also depends on their age. As consumers skew older, they’re less inclined to hop on this trend. Early adopters are prepared to spend more. More than eight in 10 (85%) consumers currently using AR and VR have already started social shopping.

Step into the future of social commerce

Social commerce is a key piece of any omnichannel strategy. With consumer preferences changing quickly, the opportunity to sell through their digital comfort zones is unmatched. Brands that embrace social are prepared to outpace the competition in 2022—and beyond.

Looking for more social commerce research? Find out what consumers say are the top mistakes brands make when selling on social.

About the data

This consumer survey is comprised of data from US participants collected via online survey. Participants were recruited by Lucid between December 14-19, 2021 among 996 adults ages 18-75. Selected participants were those who use at least one social media platform and follow at least one brand on social media. Information collected includes gender, age, household income, self-reported minutes per day spent on social media, social purchasing behaviors, features used on social media and anticipated social media habits in 2022. Sprout recognizes gender beyond the binary, although some responses have been omitted due to sample size. Relationships between variables collected were analyzed using parametric statistics for statistical significance. Direct purchases through social media were defined as “purchases that were completed on a social platform, or purchases completed on a brand’s website after clicking a post from a social platform.”