E-tailing Group Study Finds 65 Percent of Respondents are Social Shoppers
Sixty-five percent of respondents to a recent study by the e-tailing group were identified as "social researchers" - consumers who actively seek out and read customer reviews prior to making a purchase decision "always" or "most of the time."
In addition, the study found this group engaged in the use of reviews across all behavioral areas at a rate 20 percent higher than average online shoppers.
The study, "Social Shopping Study 2007," was completed by the e-tailing group and commissioned by PowerReviews. It surveyed 1,200 consumers who shop online at least four times a year, spending $500 or more annually.
There were two key goals of the study: to understand how online shoppers use reviews to make informed buying decisions, and to explore consumers' preferences and interests in "social navigation," which is the ability to narrow product selections based on reviews from like-minded people with similar interests.
The first area of research uncovered a new breed of online shopper, the social researcher, who places increased significance on peer feedback in product reviews when making purchasing decisions.
According to the study, of the 65 percent of respondents who were identified as social researchers:
- 78 percent indicated they spent more than 10 minutes in the review-reading process;
- 86 percent said they find customer reviews extremely or very important;
- 76 percent said they find "top rated product" lists to be extremely or very important; and
- 64 percent said they research products online more than half the time, no matter where they buy the product (store, Web, catalog, etc.)
Additionally, nearly all respondents indicated that product reviews would be very helpful in shopping for products in a wider variety of online categories outside of electronics, including toys and video games, sporting goods, gifts and specialty foods, and health and beauty products.
The second part of the study focused on understanding how online shoppers, particularly the social researchers, perceived social navigation, especially as it bridges the gap between the ideal offline and online shopping experience.
According to the study, 82 percent found reading reviews better than researching a product in-store with a knowledgeable sales associate. The study further revealed:
- Social researchers were 76 percent more likely to shop on a retailer's Web site versus their competitor's site if it offered social navigation (social researchers were 76 percent more likely).
- Study participants found it extremely or very helpful to narrow product selection based on feedback from people "just like them" - with like interests (64 percent), with similar uses for the product (59 percent) such as "for travel" or "for home office," and who sought out the same product "pros" (56 percent) such as durable, lightweight or easy to use.
The study also revealed that 81 percent of consumers use customer reviews to decide between two or three products or to confirm that their final selection is the right one, but that only 40 percent of consumers actually start the shopping process using reviews - meaning many shoppers leave retail sites during the shopping process to seek out reviews.
Lastly, the study authenticated the growing importance of customer reviews in the online shopping decision-making process, with 93 percent of consumers indicating they are likely to start their shopping process on a Web site that offers social navigation.