PowerReviews, the customer ratings and reviews technology provider, has just published  findings from Part 1 its 2010 social shopping survey conducted with the e-tailing group of 1,000 US consumers (50% male/50% female each spending $250 annually on shopping online 4+ times per year) (fieldwork conducted March 2010).

Focusing as you would expect on the power of customer reviews and rating – as opposed to other forms of social shopping such as group-buy, live shopping events, social plugins (ShopTogether, Facebook Social Plugins) for e-commerce sites or social media stores, the study can be downloaded from PowerReviews site.  But here’s a top line summary of the findings.

63% of shoppers consistently read reviews prior to making a purchase decision

64% vs. 50% in 2007 spend 10 minutes + reading reviews while 33% spend a 1⁄2 hour or more

39% vs. 22% suggest that they read 8+ reviews to gain sufficient confidence to judge the product

57% of shoppers trust customer reviews as a research source along with other corroborating information

Trust in reviews is degraded when not enough reviews are present or doubt arises that reviews are authentic (39%) as well as if limited negative reviews are present (38%)

50% of overall shopping (in a store, on the web, catalog) involves researching products online

72% of consumers rate customer ratings and reviews on retail sites very/extremely important when it comes to selecting and purchasing a product:

71% rated user-generated customer reviews as the community/social media tool having the highest impact on buying behavior

Factors that degrade trust in reviews include insufficient selection (50%) doubts that they are written by “real customers” (39%) and a lack of negative reviews (38%)

Even with so much more available, little change is foreseen in shopping behavior relative to online source of user-generated content for researching and shopping online