Some interesting survey findings in a new social shopping research report published yesterday by immediate future – from a representative sample of 2000 online shoppers in the UK.

Top line findings from The Social Shopping Explosion Study:

  • Reviews Happen (a lot): 53% of online shoppers posted a product review in the last month
  • Reviews Matter I: 46% of online shoppers do not have a clear idea what they want to purchase when they go online – reviews and recommendations are critical in the discovery phase of the decision process
  • Reviews Matter II: reviews are one of the top three sources of product information people use prior to purchase (search 33%, onsite info. 27%, consumer reviews 24%) reviews are important in the consideration phase of the decision process
  • Reviews Matter III: 32% of online shoppers think better of a brand that has been positively reviewed
  • Reviews Matter IV: In all retail categories (DIY excepted), online shoppers trust the opinions of other online consumers over those of retail staff, journalists or celebrities
  • An Honest Wage for an Honest Job: Online shoppers want incentives for posting online reviews, recommending sites, and supporting other shoppers (surprise, surprise!)
  • It’s All About The Money – and Experience: Discount incentives (75%) and exclusive offers (72%) are the most popular rewards sought but 82% of online shoppers also want status/experiential benefits such as early/private access and the opportunity to influence the brand/retailer
  • Credibility Rules: Incentivised reviews are not significantly less credible that unrewarded reviews (30% of online shoppers think better of a brand that has been positively reviewed by an incentivised reviewer, vs 32% for a non-incentivised review)

Our take on the study? Refreshing evidence pointing out that, quite naturally, customers want to be rewarded for their contributions – and expect contributions to have been rewarded. Despite other research, including our own, confirming this, there is still a legacy of what we call the myth of digital altruism out there – the idea that people selflessly want to help others online.  Our view is that social behaviour online is a form of self-interested image management, often motivated by the 4Fs: Fame, Fortune, Fun and Fulfillment.  But then, we’re more Lord of the Flies than The Noble Savage.

Anyhow – brands and retailers be aware – if your social commerce strategy requires user contributions – you’ll have to offer a compelling reason to participate.

immediate future‘s “the social shopping explosion” report can be downloaded in full here; here’s a taster of what you’ll find…