Customer reviews helpful for e-commerce: survey

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Product reviews are playing more of a role in purchasers' buying decisions, according to a survey of 1,200 online shoppers by PowerReviews and the e-tailing group titled Social Shopping Study 2007.

Sixty-five percent of the shoppers surveyed qualified as social researchers - consumers who actively seek out and read customer reviews prior to making a purchase. Of this group of online shoppers, 78% spent 10 minutes reviewing products and 86% find customer reviews helpful. Nearly two-thirds research products online regardless of whether or not they will make the purchase online.

"I knew there was significant interest in customer reviews but I was startled at the passion, intensity of interest and the integral nature that reviews play in online and cross-channel shopping," said Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group, in a statement. "This influence turns the table on the customer/merchant relationship and ensures that reviews are only the beginning of this new shopping dynamic."

To qualify for the survey, respondents had to shop four times a year and spend $500 annually on e-commerce.

Nearly all the respondents indicated that customer reviews would be helpful for products other than electronics, such as toys, video games, sporting goods, gifts and specialty foods as well as health and beauty products.

Currently, 81% of consumers use customer reviews to decide between two or three products or to confirm that their final selection is the right one. Half that number start the shopping process using reviews, however, meaning many leave the e-commerce site in search of customer opinion.

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