Short-form video: Top platforms, preferences, and purchasing patterns

Short-form video platforms like TikTok have emerged as significant players in shaping user behavior and preferences in e-commerce. By leveraging the impact of quick, compelling videos, they have established themselves as top channels for brands to connect with consumers and influence their buying decisions in the digital marketplace.

For a look behind their popularity and influence, we analyzed global online search trends and surveyed over 1,000 TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram users across generations in the U.S. and the U.K. In this article, we’ll share our findings, showing how these platforms meet user needs, drive engagement, and turn viewers into buyers. Find out which platforms dominate consumer behavior, leading to the most impulse and content-driven purchases.

Key takeaways



Mapping global interest in short-form video platforms

Short-form video platforms are capturing the imagination and screen time of users worldwide. The first part of our study sheds light on the most popular platforms based on global and national search interest.

TikTok emerged as the frontrunner, commanding the highest search volume both globally and in the U.S. This platform’s blend of creativity, music, and short, engaging content has struck a chord with users, making it the top source for quick video entertainment.

The U.S. showed the most interest in short-form video content overall across TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook, reflecting their robust appetite for these quick-hit entertainment pieces. Instagram found its most significant stronghold in Italy, where Instagram Reel content and Shorts were the most popular search.

While our first chart detailed where search numbers were the highest for each platform, the next part of our study maps the most searched-for short-form video platforms associated with each country. We determined each country’s top platform by comparing their number of searches for each platform to the corresponding global averages.

Also, in countries with bans on certain social media platforms, we discovered that people still search for these sites at high volumes. And even though TikTok operates under the name Douyin in China, “TikTok” was their top search among all the platforms in this study. Check out the maps below to see our full results across the globe.

Next, we identify the most popular short-form video platforms in the top 50 most populated U.S. cities. Search volumes for the platforms were above the national averages in these cities.

Understanding user engagement and preferences on short-form video platforms offers valuable insights. This segment of our study explores how different demographics interact with each one.

On average, Gen Z has spent nearly 22 days (528 hours) on TikTok per year, showing its immense popularity among younger audiences. Some Gen Zers even use TikTok as a search engine instead of Google.

Gen Z also overwhelmingly favored TikTok over other platforms for short-form video, with 58% choosing it as their preferred platform. In comparison, baby boomers preferred YouTube videos (55%) the most, suggesting a stark generational divide. However, TikTok was the preferred platform for short-form video content across generations, with a 32% preference among users, closely followed by YouTube and Instagram.

We also saw a strong difference in platform preference for short-form video content between genders: Men were 144% more likely than women to prefer YouTube, while women were 54% more likely than men to favor TikTok. Regarding regional preferences, people from the U.S. were more likely to prefer TikTok than Britons (34% versus 29%), and Britons preferred Instagram more than those from the U.S. (35% versus 22%).

Short-form video platforms cater to a wide variety of interests, from comedy to pets to food. Content types most frequently watched on these platforms included:

While funny videos can ignite laughter, a good review on TikTok can spark new restaurant patrons. This highlights how short-form video platforms blend entertainment, education, and inspiration to meet the eclectic tastes of their global audiences.

Purchase behavior analysis

Short-form video is the most engaging type of social media content, and it undeniably influences consumer purchasing behavior. In this section, we’ll reveal how each affects impulse buying across demographics and which products people are most likely to buy due to these online engagements.

Three in eight people have bought a product or service after watching a short video about it. They made 20% of these impulse buys within an hour of viewing the content. Just over half (51%) of respondents pinpointed TikTok’s short-form videos as their primary trigger for impulse purchases — and nearly one in four said the content spurred them to make a purchase within just three minutes. This emphasizes TikTok’s exceptional ability to convert viewers into buyers quickly.

The persuasive power of short-form videos extended across income brackets, with 84% of buyers stating these platforms influence at least one of their buying decisions each week. This influence was most significant among those earning under $30,000 annually (91%) and least among those with incomes above $80,000 (78%). Short-form videos’ influence on impulse buying also varied by region, but 56% of Britons and 43% of people in the U.S. named TikTok as their top impulse buy influencer, underscoring its global appeal.

People in the U.S. have spent an average of $34 per impulse buy influenced by short-form content. Their platform-specific spending was as follows:

The products people in the U.S. have purchased most often in these situations included:

These findings highlight the unique role of short-form video content in captivating audiences in a way that drives quick, decisive purchasing actions across a diversity of product categories.

Beyond entertainment

Short-form video platforms are more than just entertainment hubs — they’re pivotal in shaping consumer habits. Our data shows a generational divide in platform partiality, with Gen Z’s allegiance to TikTok and baby boomers’ preference for YouTube, highlighting this content’s diverse appeal and various avenues for consumption. Its influence on impulse purchasing illustrates these platforms’ roles in the consumer journey, especially among lower-income users.

As digital consumption patterns continue to shift, these insights and others from our study offer valuable perspectives for creators, marketers, and businesses aiming to tap into the preferences of today’s consumers. Understanding these dynamics is key to crafting digital content that resonates, engages, and ultimately, drives action.


For this campaign, we analyzed global online search trends (based on search volume) for TikTok, Facebook Reels and Shorts, YouTube Shorts, and Instagram Reels and Shorts to determine the interest in each platform globally and in the 50 most populated cities in the United States. We also surveyed 1,006 users of these platforms (51% from the U.S. and 49% from the U.K.) about their platform preferences, the amount of time they dedicate to using each platform, and how the content they view influences their purchasing decisions. The generational breakdown was 16% Gen Z, 52% millennials, 25% Gen X, and 7% baby boomers. The gender breakdown was 56% women, 43% men, and 1% identified as non-binary.

Fair use statement

We encourage you to use this information about short-form videos for non-commercial purposes, but we ask that you please include a link back to this page to ensure readers have access to our full context and methodology.

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