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Online shoppers trust the online reviews of strangers more than the recommendations of their friends, new research finds. “Conversations Among Consumers,” a new report from online retail marketers Ripple6 and The E-Tailing Group, finds that shoppers buying products on the Internet are influenced both by online social networking sites and face-to-face conversations with friends. But when it comes to whose opinions influence the shoppers, strangers have as much, if not more, impact than friends.
The online survey, which drew on the responses of 1,000 online shoppers, found that while 46 percent of online shoppers find value in product recommendations from their friends, 47 percent look to on-site customer reviews when making a decision.
Online consumers also look to expert information (43 percent), information from individuals they consider “like me” (40 percent) and product comparison tools (38 percent) to help decide what to buy.
Two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents spend at least one hour per week on social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace. Forty-three percent said they make purchases as a result of time spent on these sites. Sixty-five percent of respondents see value in connecting directly with other shoppers who bought similar products.
Representatives from The E-Tailing Group, based in Chicago, and Ripple6 in New York believe these results point to consumers’ desires for more communities online where they can share recommendations and opinions about their purchases. Ripple6’s CEO Sang Kim said, “This research confirms that most of the things consumers find valuable are those delivered by community.”
But friends still play an important role in influencing consumers. Eighty-three percent of online shoppers say they’re interested in sharing information about their purchases with people they know, while 74 percent are influenced by the opinions of others in their decision to buy the product in the first place.