Consumer Online Habits and Behavior Trends


To identify trends in consumer online habits and behaviors in the United States to inform the development of digital marketing services client communication.

Early Findings

Trends in Online Habits

Time Spent on Smartphones is Increasing

Voice Search is Gaining Share

  • As mobile gains momentum as a search vehicle, voice search is trending upward.
  • eMarketer notes that, in 2019, more than one-third of US consumers claimed they would use a voice assistant monthly, a 9.5% increase from 2018.
  • Gartner predicts that 30% of all searches will be voice-enabled by 2020.
  • This trend is supported by advances in speech recognition technology.
  • The efficiency of voice search is driving this trend among consumers. It also makes search capabilities more accessible to those with visual impairment and those with more limited fine-motor skills.

Growth in Consumption of "Ephemeral Content"

  • Growing interest in online content that is "available for a short time and disappears" is a trend driven by shortening consumer attention spans.
  • This trend is evidenced by the growth in content such as Instagram and Snapchat stories.
  • Instagram "stories" growth is reported to have increased 25% from 2018 to 2019.
  • Gen Z in particular likes to consume online content "as quickly as possible", giving rise to platforms such as Tik Tok, which focuses on short-form video.

Increase In Niche Social Platform Usage

  • Higher usage of targeted sites, such as Tik Tok and Twitch are gaining momentum and are a trend in online behavior.
  • Tik Tok usage is growing among US teens and the number of US adult Tik Tok users grew by a factor of 5.5 in 18 months.
  • Twitch, a streaming service largely focused on gaming (but since expanded to other types of content), is projected to grow from 37.5 million US viewers in 2020 to 47 million US viewers in 2023.

Online Video Content Consumption Continues to Grow

  • Digital video users in North America are projected to increase from 260.2 million in 2019 to 280.3 million in 2023.
  • Personalized videos are a trend that will drive increased consumer engagement online.
  • A 2019 survey of 500 US adults found that 49% of consumers watch 5 videos online each day (increasing from 44% in 2018).
  • 67% said YouTube was their preferred platform for online video, 71% claimed to watch video with sound, and 79% reported being open to video advertising online.
  • A Facebook study found that millennials and an increasing use of mobile devices is driving the trend in online video consumption.

Increase in Adoption of Social Commerce

  • Between 2018 and 2019, traffic driven by social platforms to eCommerce sites increased from 6.7% in 2018 to 9.1% in 2019.
  • The percentage of US consumers who viewed a product on social media and then purchased increased from 23% to 29% between 2018 and 2019.
  • 36% of US internet users feel social platforms are "as important for making product choices" as other sources, an increase from 27% in 2015.
  • The trend is driven by females and younger (18-34) shoppers.
  • Pinterest (47%), followed by Facebook (15%) and Instagram (11%), are the social platforms most likely to drive social commerce.
  • Drivers of the trend include increasing interest in social media platforms in general, the inspiration and influence of social media, the improving eCommerce capabilities of social media platforms (to help deliver a more "frictionless" purchase experience), and the growth of digital payment platforms.

Consumers Shopping More on Mobile

  • Mobile commerce accounted for 34.5% of total eCommerce sales in 2017, and is projected to comprise 54% of total eCommerce sales by 2021.
  • This trend is driven by the convenience of being able to shop from anywhere, at any time.
  • Technological advances are also contributing to the growth in mobile commerce, including augmented reality (AR), chatbots, and messenger apps. Gartner identified AR-enabled shopping as a top retail trend in 2020 and 48% of consumers said they would be more likely to purchase from a retailer who provided AR-enabled shopping experiences (such as being able to "virtually try-on" clothes).

Growth in Social Media Usage Among Older Consumers

Growing Engagement With Online Communities

  • Online community (forums, blogs, vlogs) participation has grown globally, from 72% in 2017 to 76% in 2019.
  • This trend is driven by a desire for sharing within a community environment and connecting with individuals who have similar interests (as reported by 66% of consumers in a recent Globalwebindex survey).
  • 36% of US consumers said they were likely to post something positive or inspirational in an online forum.
  • More than 80% of consumers said they would be receptive to brands participating in these forums, with community users valuing authentic brand participation ("bold, offbeat, funny").
  • Interestingly, participation in online communities may have come at the expense of social media sharing, as those who have shared personal details over social platforms has declined 35% over a 5-year period.

Increasing Gen Z Influencer Following and Engagement

  • Since 2015, there has been a 40% increase in Gen Z consumers who follow Vloggers.
  • 70% of Gen Z consumers follow an influencer on Instagram or YouTube.
  • Nearly half (44%) have made a purchase decision based on an influencer recommendation.
  • Over half (52%) of Gen Z consumers trust influencer brand recommendations, which is likely driving this online trend.
  • Jeff Cartwright, Vice President of Content at Morning Consult Research comments on the influencer trend, "Not only are influencers affecting consumer habits and trends — they’re really dictating and changing the way young Americans think about the culture and the world around them.

Summary of Early Findings Relevant to the Goals

  • In early research, we found a number of trends in online habits among US consumers, spanning device usage for online access, online content consumption, digital shopping behaviors, and online platform trends.
  • In addition to this public search, we scanned our proprietary research database of over 1 million sources and were unable to find any specific research reports that address your goals.
  • Our recommendations are based on the information we uncovered in early research.

Research proposal:

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