As we explore in our new GWI Social report (download a free summary here), the boundaries between traditional search engines and social networks have been weakening for some time – with this trend being particularly clear among the youngest age groups.

Ask all internet users where they are most likely to go for more information about a product or brand and search engines might still be the clear favorite in all groups but the age breakdown is pretty telling: the older you are, the more likely you are to cite a search engine as a main touchpoint. Conversely, the younger the person, the more they lean towards social networks or mobile apps.

Our data shows that almost 25% of 16-24s say they go to a mobile app as part of their product research, which compares to 5% among 55-64s. No less revealing is that, among the youngest age group, social networks are now just 7 percentage points behind search engines as the major port of call.

All of this makes it clear why Facebook is betting big on chat-bots. As search behaviors on networks and apps continue to strengthen, it’s not hard to see why many consumers would prefer one intuitive platform or app in which they can interact with an array of brands rather than having to install and use a separate one for each company. Facebook Messenger might be a little late to the chat-bot party compared to some other messaging services, but it has the global coverage and engagement levels needed to become a major player.

Clients can download the full version of our new GWI Social report here.

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Written by

Jason is Chief Research Officer at GlobalWebIndex. He oversees the global research and insight teams, directs the world-leading research study and specializes in analyzing consumer trends. He writes for titles like the Huffington Post and MediaPost and is a frequent contributor to stories on media outlets such as BBC News, CNN, the Guardian, Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

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