This week ForeSee Results, a firm that specializes in online satisfaction measurement, released findings from its Online Retail Satisfaction Index study.

Key findings of the study show that consumers desire and remember product reviews, and appreciate having them handy;

  • Nearly half (49 percent) of online holiday gift purchasers recall seeing online customer product reviews.
  • 39 percent of those who bought from sites with reviews cite the reviews as the primary factor influencing the purchase decision.
  • Among first-time buyers on review-equipped sites, 42 percent said they were the primary factor.
  • Overall, the 49-percent group's satisfaction score was 21 percent above the average score of all survey respondents (91 versus 75).
  • Furthermore, purchasers who cited reviews as the primary purchase influencer are 18 percent more likely to buy from that retailer the next time they buy similar merchandise (92 versus 74). Customer product reviews benefit the retailer all the way to the bottom line.

CEO Larry Freed says multichannel retailers will have to play catch-up, because customer product reviews are rapidly becoming a must-have component.

This is especially prevalent among manufacturer direct channels (see my post on reviews for manufacturers). "Manufacturer direct companies face a unique risk in offering–or not offering–product reviews," Freed says. While they may be hesitant to give customers a place where negative reviews could be more visible, Freed says the greater risk is lost sales from not providing reviews. "Shoppers that want reviews will go to a site that has them, and may very likely buy the product from that site, rather than returning to the manufacturer's site."

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