An exclusive survey of more than 1,000 online shoppers reveals what’s really making them part with their cash in our unmissable new report  

Shopper Unlocked: Inside the minds of 1,000 consumers, produced by Retail Week and nShift, reveals what UK consumers want from shopping online and the ecommerce strategies winning them over. 

When asked what makes them click, 47% of the 1,022 shoppers surveyed favour a retailers’ website for shopping inspiration and 24% prefer to browse online marketplaces.

Social media platforms Instagram (22%), TikTok (18%), Facebook (17%), YouTube (15%) and Pinterest (10%) are the next biggest influencers, while email marketing ranks the lowest in popularity (8%) when customers were asked what inspires them to part with their hard-earned disposable income.


Here we explore the social strategies of brands winning spend through TikTok and Instagram and the strategies you can adopt to do the same.  

A TikTok takeover  

A platform with nearly 2 billion users and an increasing brand presence, TikTok has become a major influencer in retail, both for the promotion of branded content and as a direct sales platform following the launch of TikTok Shop in September 2023. Up to 54% of business owners have now used TikTok to promote their brand, according to research by Adobe.  

It ranks as the second most popular social media channel for consumers across all demographics in our research and unsurprisingly, for Gen Z it takes the win, with 58% of online shoppers aged 18 to 24 looking to the platform most for inspiration.  


While the research suggests the popularity of the channel decreases as age increases, a respectable proportion (35%) of Millennials (25-34-year-olds), are also turning to TikTok when the urge to shop strikes.  

Brands certainly haven’t been ignorant of the opportunity TikTok presents. Take sportswear and athleisure retailer Gymshark. Its TikTok channel focuses not on products, but relatable fitness memes and workout videos gone wrong and has amassed a following of 5.5 million and over 100.4 million likes since launch.  


Cult Beauty’s TikTok trending page makes path to purchase as simple as possible

One of the most successful social retail stories targeting younger shoppers is THG-owned Cult Beauty. The cosmetics brand maximises the power of user-generated content to target authenticity-hungry Gen Z by regularly posting a diverse range of online videos. Whether it’s product reviews by real customers, educational videos, or jumping on the latest funny online trends to gain traction, all content has customer engagement front of mind to gain maximum reach.  

The secret to the beauty brand’s success? Its social media content doesn’t operate in a silo. A ‘TikTok trending’ page on its website supports cross-platform navigation, making shoppers’ paths to purchase as simple as possible and offering ample opportunity for marketing and upsells to already engaged audiences.  

Is Instagram’s influence over?  

TikTok’s popularity with younger demographics may reflect the engagement habits of generations to come, but for now, Instagram’s influence is still strong.  

With an estimated 2 billion monthly active users and 6.81 billion average visits per month, it also proved the most popular social media channel for shopping inspiration by the consumers surveyed.  

Most popular with 24-35-year-olds (49%) and 35-44-year-olds (29%) it also ranked highly with Gen Z (42%).  


So, what’s working to engage shoppers on Instagram? The brands winning are the ones avoiding the one-size-fits-all marketing approach that’s easy to fall into on social.  

Swedish fashion retailer & Other Stories, part of the H&M Group, takes a filtered approach to engage the under-44s, playing to the platform’s algorithms to best attract millennials and audiences most receptive to a more heavily curated social feed.

It posts a highly aesthetic curation of posed photographs and videos showcasing product alongside narrative reels that dive into collaborators’ inspirational stories to captivate audiences before they swipe away. The strategy is complemented by a smart Instagram highlight section, allowing users to easily see new products, fashion shows and marketing campaigns. The brand’s approach has resulted in a following of 3.2 million users at the time of writing.  

And while fashion thrives on Instagram – follower counts of brands such as Shein (32.3 million), Asos (14.7 million) and Burberry (20.1 million) attest to this – other categories are also open to take a slice of the inspiration pie.  

Beauty brands such as Glossier (3 million) and Aesop (1.1 million), homeware retailers from H&M Home (6.2 million) to Anthropologie (4.6 million) and food and beverage brands such as Oreo (3.6 million) are also all successfully carving out niches on the platform to target specific audiences.  

Shopper unlocked report cover

Want to dive deeper into the opinions of your online shoppers?  

Download your free copy of Shopper Unlocked: Inside the minds of 1,000 consumers for unrivalled insights into what makes shoppers spend online in 2024.  

You’ll learn:  

  • The key sources of inspiration driving online shopping across demographics 
  • The pitfalls leading to shopping basket abandonment and how to overcome them 
  • What UK online consumers value when it comes to delivery and returns 
  • The importance of sustainability and whether customers are willing to put their money where their mouths are