November 20, 2007, 12:00 AM

Content’s king in how shoppers qualify e-commerce sites, survey finds

77% of shoppers in an E-Tailing Group/ARS Commerce survey say they’re influenced by site content quality – and 76% say sites don’t always deliver quality content.

Content’s king in terms of how consumers perceive e-commerce sites, according to a recent survey by The E-Tailing Group and ARS eCommerce Inc.: 77% of 1,000 consumers polled said their interest in buying from an online merchant is “very to somewhat” influenced by the quality of content on a web site.

Content in The E-Tailing Group/ARS E-Commerce Online Content Impact Survey was defined as descriptions, copy, images and tools present on a retail site. While a majority of consumers surveyed rated the importance of content in general high, detailed product information was deemed especially important in some categories; so much so that shoppers said that without it, they’d be unable to complete an online purchase. Those categories were clothing and accessories, a category for which 64% said they required detailed product information before buying online; computer hardware and software, citied by 52%; and consumer electronics, cited by 49%.

Consumers surveyed believe that though site content is important, retail sites don’t always deliver. 76% said they find content was insufficient to complete a purchase online “almost, most often, or some of the time.” Inadequate content negatively affects sales, points out E-Tailing Group president Lauren Freedman, as 79% of those polled said they “rarely or never” purchase a product online without complete product information. In fact, 72% said incomplete product information would cause them to abandon a site to research further or to shop at a competitor.

Just how thoroughly do online shoppers study product information on e-commerce sites? 52% of those in the survey said they spend six minutes or more on a product page, with, on average, 43% of that time allocated to reading copy; 31% to viewing product images and 26% to using tools on the page.

“Feedback from these consumers, who spend over $500 while shopping online four or more items annually, demonstrates that they are reliant on robust content to research across channels and make confident buying decisions,” Freedman says.

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