Online Research Still Key Tool For Consumers

IT Management

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Online research continues to play a key role in consumer shopping behavior, according to a new study from the e-tailing group and PowerReviews.

The 2010 Social Shopping Study surveyed over 1,000 consumers who shop at least 4 times per year and spend $250 or more annually online, to understand their motivations and preferences about online product research and customer reviews.

A contrast in research style was found with consumers being either light or heavy researchers (29% conduct just a few hours of research prior to making a purchase decision while 60 % research for a week or more). Very few consumers (11%) fall in between, research for just a day.

According to respondents, online research is preferred for three reasons: its ability to save time (79 % report saving somewhat to much more time doing their own online research), increase confidence (83 % are somewhat to much more confident about making a purchase decision when doing their own research) and provide credible information (82 % are somewhat or very satisfied with product information available online).

When surveyed about where consumers are doing research online, the study found:

*More than half (57%) of shoppers begin their research with a search engine

*The top three places for finding information online when researching products were retailer sites (65%), brand sites (58%) and (33%).

*Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter ranked as the place where consumers were least likely (6%) to research.

Lauren Freedman, President of E-Tailing Group
Lauren Freedman
President of E-Tailing Group

"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," explains Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group.

"These heightened consumer demands must be met with comprehensive product and category content to ensure elevated conversion rates and return visits."

Other highlights from the study include:

*Shoppers today are spending more time reading reviews before making purchasing decisions. 64 percent take ten minutes or more (as compared to 50 % in 2007) and 33 percent take one half hour or more (as compared to 18 % in 2007).

*Consumers today are also reading more customer reviews in order to be confident in judging a product. 39 percent read eight or more reviews (as compared with 22 % in 2007) and 12 percent read 16 or more reviews (as compared with 5 % in 2007).

*Following poor product content (72 %), lack of customer reviews (49%) was ranked as the number one reason a consumer would leave a site when conducting product research.

"The findings of the 2010 Social Shopping Survey validate what we are hearing from retailers and brands - that customer reviews have become a critical piece of the marketing puzzle, based not only on consumer demand but also on the sales they deliver," said Pehr Luedtke, CEO of PowerReviews.

"The next step for retailers is to now find new ways to maximize the impact and reach of these reviews - such as optimizing them for search engines through products like our In-Line SEO solution."