May 25, 2010, 3:44 PM

Women look for advice online before shopping in physical stores

Online products reviews and recommendations are a major influence on female consumers, suggests a new survey.

Online products reviews and recommendations are a major influence on female consumers, suggests a new survey from iVillage and SheSpeaks, two companies that support online communities that focus on women.

77% of surveyed women said they are more likely to seek a product in a store after reading a review of the product on an online message board or forum. 67% said they are more likely to purchase a product in a store after reading about the product on messages boards or forums.

The findings are based on an online survey conducted between March 31 and April 2 of 1,581 U.S. women. SheSpeaks hosts product-review forums, conducts product surveys and testing, offers consumer advice and provides consumers with coupons. IVillage, which was acquired in 2006 by NBC Universal Inc., offers content and discussion boards that focus on women and their consumer interests.

Survey results indicate that women spend more time with consumer reviews and brand message boards than with Facebook and Twitter. Peer recommendations on message boards, for instance, were cited by 67% of survey respondents as a major factor in inspiring women to purchase products in stores. Only 19% of survey respondents said the same about Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, 68% of survey respondents said online coupons are a major factor in influencing purchases.

"For brand marketers and retailers alike, the insights are clear—finding the right balance of trusted content with community advice is the best way to reach women along the path to purchase,” says Jodi Kahn, iVillage executive vice president.

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