June 28, 2011, 4:37 PM

Nearly one in three consumers research products on online social networks

That’s despite only 18% of retailers offering reviews on their Facebook pages.

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One in two respondents to a recent survey say they spend 75% of their overall shopping time researching a product. That compares to 21% of respondents a year ago, according to a new report by The E-tailing Group Inc. that was sponsored by consumer review platform vendor PowerReviews.

The sharp increase is because both the amount of, and quality of, information available online continues to grow, says Lauren Freedman, president of the research and consulting firm The E-tailing Group. “People are willing to take the time to do research,” she says. “They will do anything to find the right price.”

The report, “The 2011 Social Shopping Study,” finds that 29% of shoppers are turning to social networks to research products. Yet only 18% of retailers in The E-tailing Group’s annual mystery shopping survey in the fourth quarter of 2010 feature customer reviews on their Facebook pages, which PowerReviews enables retailers to do.

“Social is emerging as a significant way that some consumers research products,” says Freedman. “In some early adopter categories it can be important. However, in other categories it probably isn’t top of mind. The real question will be whether social media is adopted by most younger consumers and become a standard way consumers research products.”

Here is the most common ways consumers report using social media for research:

  • 59% say they read customer reviews.
  • 42% access question-and-answer features that allow a consumer to pose a question to other shoppers or respond to another person’s query.
  • 26% converse in community forums.
  • 15% view user-generated videos or create their own video.
  • 13% access a retailer or manufacturer’s Facebook page.
  • 13% pose questions in their news feeds, the first page a consumer accesses on Facebook.
  • 9% monitor, respond to, or post tweets on Twitter.
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