Online customer reviews are now the tool of choice for shoppers before they decide to make a purchase, a new survey has revealed.
According to the ‘2010 Social Shopping Study’ undertaken by consultancy the e-tailing group and software provider PowerReviews among 1,000 consumers who shop at least four times per year and spend $250 or more annually online, about half of respondents now conduct internet research in relation to at least half of the purchases they make.
Some 60% spend a week or more on the task, 29% a couple of hours and 11% a day or so. The appeal of such activity versus talking to an in-store shop assistant was that it helps to boost consumers’ confidence in making the right decision (83%).
This is not least because the internet is believed to provide more credible product information, with 82% of those questioned indicating that they were either somewhat or very satisfied with such data. A further 79% also said that online searches helped them to save time.
Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group, said: “Whereas once online product research was left to the technology-savvy looking to make a major purchase, it is now part of the mainstream shopping experience for all product categories as consumers have taken control, powering their own product research.”
About 57% of shoppers began their online research using a search engine, but 65% read user-generated reviews before making a purchase decision always or most of the time. Some 64% spent 10 minutes or more on such activity, while 33% spent a half hour or more. About two in five also read eight or more reviews, while 12% read 16 or more.
The top three places to find suitable information, meanwhile, were considered to be retailer sites (65%), brand sites (58%) and Amazon.com (33%). Consumers were least likely (6%) to go to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter for such data, however.
But the biggest turn off was an inadequate numbers of reviews, with 50% of respondents saying that this situation degraded trust. A further two in five were unsure as to whether such reviews were written by real customers, while 38% were suspicious if there were no or only a limited number of negative reviews.
Poor product content was cited by 72% as a reason to leave a web site when conducting research, while nearly half said they would do so if no customer reviews were available.