In a likely indicator that the growing number of online shopping resources available to consumers is actually making people better and smarter shoppers, a new report reveals that product research is taking up an increasingly larger share of the overall shopping experience and that more people are doing such research on social networks.
One out of every two people polled for The E-tailing Group’s report, titled “The 2011 Social Shopping Study,” said they spend at least 75 percent of their overall shopping time researching products. That’s a substantial increase over the 21 percent of consumers who said the same thing just a year ago.
The group credits the rise in time spent researching to increases in both the amount and quality of information available to shoppers online. (We’ll wager that the economy probably has something to do with it too.)
“People are willing to take the time to do research,” says Lauren Freedman, president of The E-tailing Group. “They will do anything to find the right price.”
Furthermore, the survey shows that nearly one-third (29 percent) of all respondents are employing social media sites to conduct their product research. This despite the fact that that a mere 18 percent of the retailers in The E-tailing Group’s late-2010 mystery shopper survey include actual customer reviews on their Facebook pages.
It’s almost certain, however, that the inclusion of reviews and similar features on retail Facebook pages is substantially more widespread across the industry than the The E-tailing Group’s sample size indicates. In fact, it’s hard to believe the use of social networks for product research would be as high as it is if that wasn’t the case. Nevertheless, Freedman makes the case that social network product research is indeed relevant and could very well increase even more.
“Social is emerging as a significant way that some consumers research products,” she says. “In some early adopter categories it can be important. However, in other categories it probably isn’t top of mind. The real question will be whether social media is adopted by most younger consumers and become a standard way consumers research products.”
So how, exactly, are consumers using social media to conduct product research? According to the report:
–59 percent of respondents say they read customer reviews;
–42 percent access question-and-answer features that allow a consumer to pose a question to other shoppers or respond to another person’s query;
–26 percent converse in community forums;
–15 percent view user-generated videos or create their own video;
–13 percent access a retailer or manufacturer’s Facebook page;
–13 percent pose questions in their news feeds;
–9 percent monitor, respond to, or post tweets on Twitter
We’d be interested to hear what our readers have to say about this. Are you using Facebook, Twitter, etc. for product research? If so, how are you going about doing so? Leave us your thoughts and comments!