Shoppers consult communities before buying

UK shoppers are increasingly seeking third party approval before buying online, according to new research.

The study, from Quidco, looked into the online purchasing decisions of 2,000 British consumers. The findings suggest retailers must embrace community sites to attract 'marketing resistant' shoppers and drive online sales.

According to the research, commissioned by Quidco and carried out by pollsters YouGov, 62% of all shoppers consult online communities - such as cash-back, price comparison and review websites - before making a purchase. Just 27% of consumers go directly to the retailer.

When asked which factors encouraged them to use community sites, the top three answers from consumers were: they offer me unbiased facts about products and services (32%); they trusted the views of communities more than merchants (27%); and the communities help me find the best deal available (27%).

With online retail spend in the UK expected to hit £44.9bn by 20122, the implication is that third party community sites can't be ignored by retailers wanting a slice of these revenues.

Paul Nikkel, Co-Founder of Quidco, argues that a change in perception is needed: "In the past, some retailers may have perceived third party communities to be 'middlemen', but this research shows consumers clearly value them as trusted brands in their own right. Yes, they like the cost savings on offer, but actually they value the community elements and independence more highly. In the offline world, retailers are found in the places where consumers hang out en-masse - often strong shopping centre brands like Bluewater - and they need to do the same online."

Quidco has seen its UK member base grow exponentially since it started. This year, in April alone, the site recorded 360,000 transactions - a 109% increase compared with the same month last year. With a Quidco transaction completed every seven seconds during April, the site generated sales of £10.7 million for its retailers that month.

Nikkel concludes: "Our community members tell us that they are tired of being marketed at, and want to make decisions based on interactions with like-minded shoppers. The way for retailers to reach these marketing resistant shoppers is to employ a less aggressive approach and ensure that you're represented in the places they like and trust."

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