July 9, 2007, 12:00 AM

Canadian web shoppers trust social networking

Online shoppers in Canada are using more customer reviews and blogs to help them make purchasing decisions, says a new report from J.C. Williams Group.

Online shoppers in Canada are using more forms of social networking such as customer reviews and blogs to help them make purchasing decisions, says a new report from J.C. Williams Group.

J.C. Williams, a retail consulting firm with offices in Toronto and Chicago, surveyed about 2,000 Canadian shoppers for its annual survey. The research finds that 60% of online shoppers rate customer reviews posted on an e-commerce site as their most trusted source of information vs. 31% who rely on newspapers or magazines. Online shoppers in Canada also are twice as likely to post a customer review, write a blog entry or post a video than Internet users who do not shop online, the report says.

“Consumers are increasingly turning to their online community or network for advice instead of traditional mass media,” says senior partner Jim Okamura. “It is indicative of the shift to an empowered consumer and the rapid fragmentation of media channels. It definitely presents a challenge for online marketers.”

When they aren’t blogging or posting their comments, web shoppers in Canada are buying more online, the report says. The average shopper is now spending about $454 each year shopping online, up from about $447 in the previous 12 months. Overall shoppers are going online to purchase more clothing, accessories, consumer electronics and products for the home and garden, the report says.

While Canadians are varying their web purchases, more buyers also are taking the time to comparison shop. The report found that 38% of online buyers will visit more than one web store before making a final purchase, up from 34% in 2006. Another 37% also use search engines to locate a specific retailer, compared with 33% in the prior year. “E-commerce in Canada continues to grow as online shoppers are more comfortable buying a broader range of products,” says Okamura.

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