Reddit: Search Failing Gen Z As They Turn To Social Media

Reddit sees a massive shift upending traditional search methods to make way for new ones as younger users spend more time online -- despite the efforts of Google and Bing to push artificial intelligence (AI) into their respective search engines and promising a world where technology puts information at the fingertips of consumers.

Data from a recent survey released today at Cannes Festival of Creativity suggests this change will prompt traditional engines like Google and Bing to lose users as younger demographics such as Gen Z rely more on social media to validate purchases.

Search engines' reliance on content is one of the biggest challenges affecting the change. With 61% of Gen Z and 62% of all internet users stressing the need for improved reliability of information.

Ranking second, 44% of Gen Z and 48% of all internet users say they want a more dependable yet simplified search experience that eliminates the hard work to find relevant information.



Authentic human content is one reason that Reddit has grown so much, so consumers are adding a step to validate the potential purchase, says Rob Gaige, head of global insights at Reddit. “They want content that’s hyper-specific tailored to questions in a way no search algorithms could,” he said.  

Gen Z is particularly sensitive to inaccurate information and the lack of reviews, reflecting their desire for trustworthy research experiences. Some 65% of survey participants said reliability of information on search engines needs to improve.

Many younger consumers are turning to social media to solve these problems. Weary of traditional product research methods, they want brands to make the first move.

Rather than dig through pages of results, information about products and services serve-up in social media feeds even before users recognize a need for them is having a major impact.

“Most Gen Zers began their relationship with the mobile phone and camera when they were very young,” he said. “They are beyond digital natives. As they have come of age in social media, algorithms have trained them to give them what they want before they knew they wanted it.”  

In 2023, 51% of Gen Z in North America said they use social media to discover new brands and products, up from 35% in 2018.

For Gen Z, search has become a laborious process, increasingly loaded with paid-for results. With more than 60% of internet users stressing the need for improved reliability of information, consumers want a more dependable yet simplified search experience which takes the hard work away from them. Products that rank down the search query page many times land on subsequent pages forcing those searching for information to really search.

Gen Z does not give trust lightly when it comes to product research tools. Traditional and community-driven sources that serve opinions from real, knowledgeable people have more credibility than other digital platforms where advertising or sponsored influencers form a central part of the user experience.

Promotional content in the search experience undermines trust. Some 49% of all internet users believe there are too many ads and sponsored content in search results, with 47% saying they receive irrelevant results.

Gen Z also want curated personalized recommendations. This is prompting a decline in product discovery on search engines.

Overall, 37% say they receive inaccurate or misleading information, compared with 42% of Gen Z. Lack of review and customer testimonials hit home with Gen Z. They look for truthful recommendations as a way to make decisions. Some 36% of Gen Z think promotional content undermines search results, compared with 27% overall.

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