Study cites keys to consumers' retail choices
Using the internet to compare prices, product and service features and costs has become standard shopping behaviour for British consumers, according a survey by Lightspeed Research, which found that 75% of consumers use price comparison web sites.
The survey found that only 13% of consumers had not done online pre-purchase research, price comparisons, or investigated online reviews before buying a product, regardless of whether their purchase was made online or in the high street.
Consumers said they research everything from expensive products such as cars, personal technology and white goods, to cheaper items such as books, films, clothes and games. And the same applied to services, with insurance being the most-researched service (at 68%), followed by holidays, utilities, mobile phone companies, and banks/financial services.
Almost half (49%) of consumers said they had written a review and posted it online, and 88% of those who had done so said they had posted a positive review. However, with so many people reading online reviews, it is no surprise that negative reviews can have a significant influence.
One quarter (24%) said they change their minds about buying a product or service after reading two bad reviews, and a further 39% said reading three negative reviews would persuade them against buying a particular product or service. Older consumers were found to be even more cautious: one third (33%) of 55-64 year-olds said they would change their mind after only two negative reviews, compared to only 10% of 18-24 year-olds.
Almost two thirds (64%) said they trusted the opinions and experiences of other consumers, followed by Which? magazine's reviews (60%), and professional reviewers (58%).
Although people turn to company web sites as part of their research, they are not always swayed by the reviews from other consumers they read there, as only 17% thought that reviews on a company's own web site are trustworthy.
Despite a lot of attention being paid by marketers to social marketing strategies, social network friends were not yet found to be a major a part of most consumers' purchasing decisions. In fact, only 17% said it was important that social network friends gave products they were interested in a good review.
"Word of mouth is acknowledged to be highly effective, but social networks don't yet seem to be a place where it works so well," concluded Ralph Risk, marketing director for Lightspeed Research Europe. "Online communities are more about friendship and conversations, and product and service reviews don't fit so well into the discourse."
According to Risk, brands must be more aware of the influence that online reviews have, whether positive or negative: "There is a real danger that companies will focus on social media because it is so popular and, in doing so, miss out on the opinions that consumers actually value: those of online consumer reviews, consumer magazines, and other professional reviewers."