More than two-thirds of UK consumers (70%) cited online product ratings and reviews as the most helpful feature when deciding what to buy - either from an online retailer or a high street shop - according to research from Jupiter Research and social commerce technology firm Bazaarvoice.
Other factors that influenced consumers' choice of product included product comparison tools (57%), product images on the web (51%), and consumer-driven lists such as "top rated" or "most popular" products (19%).
Online drives offline sales
Two-thirds (65%) of internet users said they research products online before buying online, and 56% said they research products on the web before purchasing them in the High Street.
Not surprisingly, consumers' trust in online reviews was found to be at its greatest when reviewers told both sides of the story: 56% agreed with this when both pros and cons of a product were listed by reviewers, and 49% trusted reviews most when writers left both positive and negative comments about the product. Overall, 97% of those who research products online said they were willing to trust online reviews.
High demand for reviews
Consumers' high demand for rating and review content, along with other findings in the research, support what Bazaarvoice has consistently observed in the US market, according to CMO, Sam Decker: "This research also shows that consumers want authentic, balanced feedback, and that they mainly feel that ratings and reviews are trustworthy. 2008 will signal a big change for online retailers in the UK as they listen to what consumers want and allow them to influence each others purchase decisions."
The study also found that over half (53%) rated customer reviews as the most helpful source when gathering product quality and performance information, compared to other sources such as personal recommendations and adverts. For example, only 11% of online users cited television adverts as the most helpful source, and recommendations from friends was ranked second (after online customer reviews) at 47%. Only 4% said that magazine and radio adverts were a major influence when deciding what to buy.