Consumers: Product Reviews Are Essential

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A lack of customer reviews was the second-highest response consumers gave for leaving a site when conducting product research, according to the 2010 Social Shopping Study released by the e-tailing group and PowerReviews. Nearly half (49%) of the more than 1,000 shoppers polled ranked it as the top reason they would continue their research elsewhere, placing it behind only poor product content (79%).

The study underscored the growing influence that product reviews have on consumers, and how they have become an essential part of online product research. User-generated reviews were revealed as the most important capability for retailers to have on their websites, beating out customer service information and buying guides/expert opinions.

Other findings from the study, a follow-up to the one conducted in 2007, include:
•    64 percent of shoppers take 10 minutes or more reading reviews before making a purchase (compared to 50% in 2007), and 33 percent take 30 minutes or more (compared to 18% in 2007)
•    50 percent say that not having enough reviews is the top factor that degrades trust in an online merchant; 39 percent cited doubt about the validity of the reviews’ origins as the top reason for degraded trust, and 38 percent cited the limited availability or lack of negative reviews as the top reason for degraded trust
•    57 percent of shoppers begin their online research with a search engine
•    Only 6 percent said that they conducted their product research on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter

Regardless of the source of the study, it's difficult for e-commerce merchants to ignore how much consumers have come to rely on user-generated product reviews. Particularly noteworthy should be the effects that a lack of reviews, including negative ones, and less-than-credible reviews have on shoppers.

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