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Peer-Group Influence Drives Online Retail

According to Nielsen Online, 81 percent of online shoppers have read product or retailer reviews by other customers when doing their holiday shopping this year. Customer reviews are an important research tool for online consumers, with 71 percent agreeing that reviews influence their purchase.

When evaluating this customer feedback, 63 percent of online shoppers indicated that it was important to have multiple reviews for each product; 14 percent looked for reviews from an established source; and just three percent sought out reviews by people they knew personally.

These results are from a Nielsen Online holiday survey intended to understand the mindset of the U.S. online shopper. The online survey was fielded from December 8 -15 among approximately 1,000 online shoppers in the U.S. who did their shopping online last year and/or planned to do so this year.

"Consumer reviews are a must-have for online retailers, especially during the holiday season when shoppers are buying for others in categories they're less familiar with," said Ken Cassar, vice president, industry insights, Nielsen Online. "Perhaps more than any other time of year, consumers are looking for outside feedback for guidance."

Nearly one-fourth, 24 percent, of online shoppers have spent more than $500 so far this holiday season, with 22 percent spending between $100-199 online. The 24/7 shopping convenience of the Web was the reason cited most frequently by respondents (78 percent) for shopping online.

More than half of respondents, 55 percent, indicated that they logged onto the Web site of a local brick and mortar retailer before visiting the physical store. The primary reason for going online first was comparing prices between retailers, followed by checking if an item was in stock and looking for sales in stores.

The most popular reason to shop at a particular online retailer was having made a purchase there in the past, with 62 percent of respondents. Search engines were the second most popular way to find an online retailer, followed by offline catalogs, with 38 and 31 percent of respondents, respectively.

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