Report: Consumers going online for research prior to buying

Chicago A report released Monday by The E-tailing Group and PowerReviews found that online research remains central to consumer shopping behavior.

According to the 2010 Social Shopping Study, 50% of consumers say they conduct research online for at least half of the purchases made (compared with 54% in 2007).

The survey, which queried over 1,000 consumers who shop at least four times per year and spend $250 or more annually shopping online, focused on two key areas: how, when and why consumers are conducting online product research as well as their behaviors, and expectations related to customer reviews.

Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed conduct just a few hours of research prior to making a purchase decision, while 60% conduct research for a week or more.

Just 11% conduct research for just a day.

The study also found that people strongly prefer to do their own research online versus speaking to a knowledgeable sales associate in-store. 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); increased confidence (83% are somewhat to much more confident about making a purchase decision when doing their own research); and credible information (82% are somewhat or very satisfied with product information available online).

Other key findings included: 57% of shoppers begin their online research with a search engine; the top three places consumers named for finding information online when researching products were retailer sites (65%), brand sites (58%) and (33%).

Social Media sites (Facebook, Twitter) ranked as the place where consumers were least likely (6%) to research.

When surveyed about the tools available for online research, customer reviews were ranked as the No. 1 social-media tool having a positive to significant impact on buying behavior.

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.

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