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A new breed of online shopper – the “Social Researcher,” who places increased significant emphasis on peer feedback in product reviews when making purchasing decisions – is the focus of a recently completed study by the e-tailing group.

The “Social Shopping Study 2007,” commissioned by PowerReviews, surveyed 1,200 consumers who shop online at least four times per year, spending $500 or more annually.

The study sought (1) to understand how online shoppers use reviews to make informed buying decisions, and (2) to explore consumers’ preferences and interests in “Social Navigation” – or the ability to narrow product selections based on reviews from like-minded people with similar interests.

Some 70% of all online shoppers said customer reviews and ratings on a retailer’s website were extremely or very important when they are selecting and purchasing products, followed by 62% citing a top-rated products list (as rated by customers):

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Among the respondents, 65% were identified as Social Researchers – consumers who actively (always or most of the time) seek out and read customer reviews prior to making a purchase decision:

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Social Researchers were found to engage in the use of reviews across all behavioral areas at a rate 20% higher than average online shoppers:

  • 86% of Social Researchers find customer reviews extremely or very important, vs. 70% of all online shoppers.
  • 76% of Social Researchers find “top rated product” lists to be extremely or very important, vs. 62% of all online shoppers.
  • 64% of Social Researchers research products online more than half the time, no matter where they buy the product (store, web, catalog, etc.)

How online shoppers, particularly Social Researchers, perceive Social Navigation was also examined.

  • Some 82% of Social Researchers (vs. 75% of all online shoppers) found reading reviews better than researching a product in-store with a knowledgeable sales associate.
  • 76% of Social Researchers (vs. 69% of all online shoppers) are more likely to shop on a retailer’s website - vs. its competitor site – if it offers social navigation.
  • 75% of Social Researches (vs. 64% of all online shoppers) found it extremely or very helpful to narrow product selection based on feedback from people like them (with similar interests).

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