Millennials Are Increasingly Using Various Methods to Search for Things Online

August 17, 2022

“Search and discovery methods are branching out,” declares GWI in its latest report [download page] on the US Millennial population. The study finds that while search engines remain the most popular way for Millennials to search for things online, their use has stagnated while others have climbed.

Based on a Q1 2022 survey of almost 16,000 US Millennials born 1983-1996, the report reveals that 7 in 10 Millennials had searched for something online using a search engine in the previous month, flat from data collected from Q2-Q4 2020.

By contrast, the use of other methods to search for things has increased since 2020. For example, 42% said they had searched for something using social media in the prior month, with this up by 14%. There has also been an increase in the percentage who use video sites such as YouTube for search (36%, up 6%), with another notable rise for those using e-commerce websites (31%, up by 12%) for search.

Of note, a growing number have used image search tools (17%) and voice search (15%) in the previous month to search for things online.

Product Discovery Trends

There have also been shifts in the ways that Millennials discover products, per the report. This year 38% of US Millennials say they typically hear about new products or services via ads on social media, representing a 20% increase from 2020. Moreover, some 35% report typically hearing about new products or services through social media posts, with this an even bigger rise (+24%) from 2020. This aligns with recent research, which has found that for more than 4 in 10 social media users, their use of social platforms for discovering new products, services, and brands has risen over the past year.

It’s not just posts and ads on social media that are rising as product discovery vehicles: about 1 in 5 (21% of) Millennials surveyed say they typically hear about new products or services via sponsored posts on social media, with this a 22% increase from the Q2-Q4 2020 period.

As such, social media posts and sponsored posts on social are the fastest-rising drivers of product discovery for Millennials, per the report.

By contrast, fewer are making these discoveries as a result of TV commercials. One in 4 Millennials professed to doing so typically, down 6% from 2020, and trailing word-of-mouth and both social media posts and ads on social media. Previous GWI data has shown that 4 in 10 US internet users ages 16+ typically discover new products and services through TV ads, so it appears that Millennials lag the average by quite some distance on this front.

Other Findings:

  • Millennials spend slightly more time on average watching broadcast TV than using social media or watching online TV, per the report.
  • 1 in 3 Millennial TV viewers uses HBO Max, which is billed in the report as “the fastest-growing contender.”
  • A declining share of Millennial TV viewers (43% in Q1 2022 versus 47% in Q2 2020) say they skip through commercials if possible.
  • A growing share (42% vs. 32%) say that subscriptions for streaming services are getting too expensive.
  • More Millennials listen to podcasts weekly (26%) than visit online news websites (25%) with that frequency.
  • About half (49%) report doing most of their online shopping via mobile, while 3 in 10 say they use Instagram Shopping Bag/FB Marketplace.

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