From TikTok to Influencers, the pervasive influence of social media on the CPG customer journey

Social media is now an important part of how consumers discover new CPG products. From brand accounts to online influencers, huge shares of the more than 3,000 CPG shoppers we surveyed in February 2023 said they turn to social media on their way to buy everyday items.

Here we’ll uncover some of the deep insights into social media available in the 2023 CPG Customer Journey.

45% of beauty shoppers say social media has introduced them to new products

When asked where they saw or heard about new beauty products that they then went on to buy, 45% of beauty shoppers chose social media, a higher percentage than television. TV was the top channel for OTC health and food and beverage shoppers, but social media was still second for each.

Social media led TV for product discovery for all three product types studied for both Gen Z and millennials, highlighting the channel’s importance to younger generations. Incredibly, 65% of Gen Z beauty shoppers recall seeing or hearing about beauty products on social media that they later went on to purchase.

Turning our attention to which social platforms are the most influential for product discovery, Facebook won in every product category examined when looking at all respondents. This is not surprising given its status as the most used social app in the US.

However, Gen Z, TikTok, and Instagram zoomed ahead of Facebook in all three product categories.

So, effectively reaching CPG shoppers varies greatly from generation to generation when it comes to the platforms likely to drive product awareness. This is also the case when evaluating the effectiveness of online influencers and brand social accounts.

Influencers and Brand Socials are much more important to younger buyers

In beauty, food and beverage, and OTC health products, Gen Z saw the highest share of shoppers who said they purchased a product based on an online influencer’s recommendation in the past year. At least 75% of Gen Zers in every product category bought a product recommended by an influencer. In comparison, less than 60% of Boomer respondents in each category purchased a product recommended by an online influencer.

Similarly, younger generations are much more likely to follow brand accounts on social media. Boomers were half as likely as Gen Zers to follow brand accounts in each of the product categories studied.

When it comes to what brand followers are most looking for from such accounts, the most popular responses were to hear about new products, to hear about promotions/discounts, and to hear details about what those brands are selling. While entertainment was the reason many shoppers chose to follow brand accounts, it was less important than all other possible reasons presented in all three surveys.

Most consumers still don’t turn to social media for product searches

Google data noted that about 40% of young people will go to TikTok or Instagram rather than Google, while looking for a place for lunch. However, when it comes to CPGs, social media is much lower on the list where young people search first, behind search engines and especially large retail sites.

Looking at the share of respondents who first turn to a search engine like Bing or Google for product searches compared to those who search first on social media, search engines significantly outperform social platforms in product categories, even for Gen Z respondents : Both social platforms and search engines lag far behind retailers like Walmart and Amazon when it comes to initial product searches in these categories.

For OTC health products, Gen Z respondents are more than four times more likely to start a search on a search engine than on a social media platform. This will be a trend to watch as social platforms increasingly provide search advertising capabilities.


Social media is now the most important digital channel to hear about or see new CPG products for the first time in the beauty, food and beverage and OTC health categories. However, the importance of influencers, branded social accounts and dedicated platforms varies significantly by age of buyers.

As such, CPG brands must have a good understanding of who they want to reach through social media and must create targeted campaigns that deliver well-tailored messaging. This is especially true given that the majority of respondents in each of the three surveys expressed a desire to see ads that are either personalized to them based on past actions or appeal to groups that share their demographics or common interests. A minority of respondents preferred ads that appeal to most people.

Social media is likely to grow in importance moving forward. Marketers need to make sure they put their best foot forward as its impact bubbles up across key CPG categories.

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