Pandemic powers 43% rise in social shopping as Brits turn to Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to shop

March 10, 2021

Mastercard research reveals fashion takes the crown as the most popular category for shopping on social media as targeted ads and influencers drive sales

  • 43 per cent of Brits have shopped more through social media in the past year
  • The over 55s have seen a 42% increase in social shopping, due to using social media more during the pandemic
  • Nearly a fifth of Brits say targeted ads and sponsored posts influencer their social shopping habits
  • A third of Brits shop on social to support small businesses

New Mastercard research reveals that Brits have discovered new ways to shop on social media during the pandemic, as bricks and mortar stores were forced to shut, with 43% of those surveyed increasing their spending on social media in 2020 compared to previous years.

As a result of lockdowns and restrictions, many consumers have found new digital ways to get their retail therapy fix. Shopping for clothes and fashion made up 41 per cent of purchases through social media, followed by beauty (24%) and homeware (23%).

A huge 92% of people who shop socially say they had bought items via Instagram, followed by Facebook at 39 per cent, YouTube at 22 per cent and TikTok at 20 per cent1.

Younger people have been driving these spending trends, however, 54 per cent of over 55s have admitted to buying more socially, due to using social media more during lockdown with 25 percent of their purchases going towards technology products. In addition to fashion, beauty and homeware, technology, sports and food were also popular purchase choices.

Efficiency and ease of purchase are the main factors driving the adoption of social shopping. 28 per cent of Brits choose to shop on social media because they can pay at the ‘click of a button.’ So it’s no surprise that when it comes to ways to pay, fast and secure checkout methods reign supreme for the younger crowd, with 48 per cent of Gen Zs using digital wallets to checkout. Entering card details remains popular with older shoppers with 41% of Baby Boomers opting for this traditional method.

The research also shows how influencers and tailored ads are a big part of the social shopping experience and driving sales. Nearly a quarter (24%) of Gen Z enjoy their favourite influencers linking products directly to buy, saving on browsing time. Similarly, 18 per cent of Brits favour shopping on social media due to targeted ad’s and sponsored posts.

Supporting small business is also a key driver for this growing trend, with 35 per cent of Brits purchasing from newly discovered independent brands and businesses when shopping through social media in 2020. The research found that almost a third (29%) of people in the North say they are interested in continuing to support independent brands and businesses they have previously shopped from.

 Mastercard reveals five top tips for shopping on social media

  1. Be aware of the differences between a review or a paid-for post. Look out for #AD, #Gifted, ‘Sponsored’ or ‘Paid Partnership’
  2. Check other customer reviews to confirm details about the product
  3. Review the shipping terms - be mindful of where the product is being shipped from as it could take several weeks to arrive and have customs duty requirements
  4. Check out a company’s website or other social media pages to double check legitimacy
  5. Be secure – when you use your Mastercard to pay, you benefit from enhanced consumer protection

 Janne Karppinen, Vice President, Merchant Development UK&I at Mastercard said: “As the majority of retailers have transitioned to digital, social media shopping has grown significantly in the UK and marks a new environment for consumers to benefit from live recommendations from their favourite influencers, community and brands. We’re also pleased to see our nation use social media for good by supporting their local and small businesses and we expect to see that continue through 2021 and beyond the pandemic.”

 Katherine Templar-Lewis, Creative Scientist and Neurologist said: “The rise of social media shopping makes sense at a very fundamental and scientific level. It goes above and beyond just the convenience, and exception of personalisation that today’s customer desires, but to our deeper needs as a human. 

Being highly social beings, we are wired to thrive and feel good when we are part of a community. Social media shopping provides this, it is like a social gathering giving us a necessary sense of belonging and connection, it’s an expression of self and community. We can see that in the top categories shopped for (fashion, beauty etc). That need for connection right now is greater than ever in these times of high isolation, without that connection we suffer. Social media platforms have become a powerful way to connect with others.” 

Top reasons Brits are purchasing from social media:

  1. Using social media more due to the pandemic (50%)
  2. Not able to shop in physical stores, so shop via social (41%)
  3. More time on their hands (30%)
  4. More convenient than buying on the high street (23%)
  5. Targeted ads encourage people to buy (22%)

Not only is the nation’s shopping habits changing in terms of the platforms use, but people are using social media to purchase smaller, everyday items such as food (11%) or pet accessories (11%). Whilst these changes are due to lockdown, they have been adopted quickly due to comfort and natural progression.

 Although Brits expect to match or increase their 2020 level of shopping via social sites in 2021, there are many yet to be convinced. Just under a third (27%) of Brits have had negative experiences such as receiving a product of much poorer quality than they’d expected. Safety and security are still very much at the forefront of many Brits’ minds too, with over a fifth (23%) choosing not to shop socially with concerns about safety.

Top categories for items bought through social media according to Mastercard research:

  1. Fashion (41%)
  2. Beauty (24%)
  3. Homeware (23%)
  4. Technology (18%)
  5. Sports and fitness (11%)
  6. Food (11%)


Notes to editors

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,046 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken in January 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Where cited in the research the demographic splits are the following:

  • 18–24-year-olds, Gen Z
  • 25–34-year-olds, Millennials
  • 35–54-year-olds, Gen X
  • 55+ year olds, Baby Boomers 



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