It’s become an increasingly common refrain that Google search results aren’t what they used to be. Although it’s still the predominant search engine, web surfers are growing more impatient with an allegedly cluttered, ad-heavy results page. So some online shoppers have started to look elsewhere to more specialized, knowledgeable sources for product research.
CivicScience recently surveyed Americans on their product search habits when getting ready to shop online. Similar to a study from last year, Amazon and Google still reign supreme among adults who shop online, with 4-in-5 opting for one of the major titans. But TikTok is making inroads, with 5% of all online shoppers turning to the social media platform first for product searches and research — more than double the rate of Instagram and Reddit (n=4,643).
As expected, it’s almost entirely a phenomenon among young shoppers. Eighteen percent of Gen Z online shoppers turn to TikTok first, along with nearly 1-in-10 in the 25-to-34 age bracket. Amazon holds more than 40% dependence among every age group — but Google sees a precipitous dropoff among Gen Z shoppers, with just under one-quarter of them turning to the search engine first.
Nearly one-quarter of daily TikTok users who also online shop rely on the platform for product searches — but nearly as many who only use TikTok monthly or less turn to it as their first choice for searching and research. Infrequent TikTok users are also the most likely to use Reddit as a search engine alternative.
Although brick-and-mortar retailers may seem at odds with shoppers turning to social media for product research, Americans who love shopping at Target outpace the Gen Pop in their likelihood to use TikTok, Instagram, or Reddit for online shopping advice. You might associate TikTok with showcasing items largely purchased online, but it could function as a quick and easy video review platform for products bought at big-box retailers in the right hands.
Social media sites like TikTok and Instagram aren’t close to running Amazon or Google out of the product search market, but their increasing share of young shoppers is certainly a trend worth monitoring. If online shoppers grow further disenchanted with old-guard search engines, it’s not like they’re going to stop searching for new products altogether.