Users browse but don’t buy on social media

Social Media
27 Dec 2018

The recent report on social media by GlobalWebIndex establishes several certainties about the behaviour of digital consumers. The study looked at the popularity of the main social platforms, brand engagement, and how social media services are evolving as content and commerce platforms.

Market saturation

It’s a fact: 98% of digital consumers are social media users, and adoption is high (94%) even among non-digital natives (55-64s). Worldwide an average of two hours twenty-two minutes per day is spent on social networks and messaging, although trends show that this figure has started to decrease in specific markets.

22% of digital consumers liked or followed a brand on a social network in November. More than 4 in 10 of these use their favourite social network to research new brands or products.

Facebook and YouTube are the industry leaders. Facebook is still the dominant social platform in terms of membership. Outside of China, 85% of internet users say they have a Facebook account, but YouTube has a higher average number of weekly visitors. YouTube has visitor rates that are seven percentage points higher than its membership. And this is in spite of the competition with the new messaging networks and apps.

China and the West

Baidu Tieba and Qzone perform strongly in China, although they are still about twenty points behind WeChat in membership. 81% of online adults have an account, and 79% use the Tencent platform each month, which has taken on a central role in the daily digital activities of Chinese users. The reason is that all types of public and private services natively coexist within an individual app.

Enabling consumers to finalise a purchase while remaining within social apps has been a goal for the leading social media platforms for quite a while now. This has been successfully achieved in China, but online consumer habits in Western markets are very different.


Social media plays a big role in the consumer’s purchase journey, but are not the point of purchase for most users. They prefer to move to retail sites when it comes to clicking on the “buy” button. This behaviour has even been detected among 16-24 year old digital natives: only 12% say that they are likely to buy something on social media.

Facebook and its competitors do not seem to offer any real benefits for users buying through a social network. The clear gap between them and the digital retail sites can only be bridged with consumer-engagement strategies. And, of course, by successfully and securely embedding payment systems..