The Top Channels Consumers Use to Learn About Products [New Data]

Download Now: The U.S. Consumer Trends Report
Maxwell Iskiev
Maxwell Iskiev


Imagine you’re scrolling through Instagram and see an ad for a product you might be interested in.

how consumers find products online

Your first thought might be that ad targeting is too advanced, but you still might be curious about the product. Where do you look next? Their Instagram page, website, or searching for online reviews?

These are the questions we asked 600+ consumers in our 2023 State of Consumer Trends Survey to find out how people behave after discovering a product they might want. Of course, preferences vary by generation, so we'll include insights split by age group. For more age-specific info, you can also check out our full report on consumer shopping habits by generation. consumer shopping habits by generation. 

Download Now: The State of U.S. Consumer Trends [Free Report]

How Do Consumers Want to Learn About Products in 2023?

Consumers are discovering products and their features through a variety of channels and maintain the same preferences as they did in 2022: surfing the web, retail stores, then social media and television ads. 

how consumers prefer to learn about products

While ads on streaming services and marketing emails are less popular among all generations combined, splitting data up by age group paints a different picture. 

Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X set themselves apart from Boomers in their preference for learning about products through social media, with Boomers preferring to search the internet. Gen Z and Boomers align on their interest in word-of-mouth for product discovery. 

generational preferences for discovering new products

So let’s dive deeper into the most popular channels consumers use to learn about products.

SEO is Key for Product Discovery

34% of consumers prefer to learn about products by searching the internet, highlighting the importance of optimizing your website for SEO.

It’s popular among all age groups, but the generational difference makes it most popular among Gen X and Boomers. This doesn’t mean search engines are dying, though. Consumers say search engines are still the best way to get information

search engines still the best way

Since we know consumers are searching the web to better understand products and their features, it’s also key to get a sense of which devices they are using to create the best user experience.which device is used most often for search queries

Not only are mobile phones the device of choice for over 50% of consumers when searching up a question online, but they are also the most used device when they shop online.

which device is used most often when shopping online

The use of mobile devices is significantly higher for all generations (except for Boomers), meaning you should optimize your website to be mobile-first.

search query device by generation

Retail Is Still Relevant, Especially for Older Generations

Coming in second place, 28% of consumers say they prefer to learn about products in retail stores. Unsurprisingly, the in-person approach is most popular among older age groups, though it isn’t completely lost on Gen Z and is still favored by almost one in five Millennials.

retail store product discovery

Social media is the future of shopping. 

In the past three months, 41% of consumers have discovered a product on social media. When we split this up by age group, 64% of Gen Z have discovered products on social media in the past three months. 

percentage of each generation that has discovered new products on social media

63% and 56% of consumers have used Facebook and Instagram, respectively, to make an in-app purchase in the past three months. That's a +14% increase for Facebook and +27% for Instagram just from January of 2023, only symbolizing steady growth of social commerce among consumers. 

Next, let’s take a look at how consumers want to learn about products on social media.

graph displaying how consumers prefer to discover new products on social media

Consumers prefer to discover products on social media through ads or sponsored content, short-form videos, and through feed posts and social media marketplaces with off-app purchases tied for third place. 

The top preference for ads or sponsored content remains consistent from 2022, but there were two notable YoY changes. Consumers in 2023 have a greater preference for short-form video, a +23% YoY increase/percent change, and influencer marketing saw a +15% YoY increase. 

discover products on social media YoY comparison

Generationally, influencers are still popular sources of product discovery for Gen Z. 

graph displaying generational preference for discovering a product on social media through an influencer

You might also be wondering what kind of content consumers want to see from brands on social media.

most memorable branded social media content

44% of consumers say relatable content is the most memorable, followed by content showcasing a brand's products/services (demos, teasers, etc.), then funny content. 

The top three preferences were the same in 2022 but in different spots. Funny content was the most memorable but experienced a -29% YoY drop. Relatable content rose to the top spot with a +4.7% YoY change. 

most memorable branded social media content YoY

TV Ads Are Key for Boomers and Gen X

TV ads are key for Baby Boomers, and it’s their second preferred way to discover new products. The channel falls short for all other generations, however. 

percent of age groups that use tv ads to learn about products

Word of Mouth Is Relevant, But Gen Z and Gen X Appreciate Influencers

26% of consumers say they prefer to learn about products through word of mouth, and it ranks in the top 5 channels for learning about products for every generation. It takes up the third spot for Gen Z and Gen X. 

YouTube Ads are Key For Gen Z and Millennials

Overall, just 16% of consumers say they prefer learning about a product and its features through YouTube ads, but the video platform ranks among the top channels for Gen Z and Millennials.

Making 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 meet your targets in 2023?

Check out our State of Consumer Trends Report and the free downloadable PDF that comes with it.

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