Using online price comparison sites is an increasingly integral part of the shopping process for UK consumers, according to new research.
A study from business data providers Lightspeed Research shows that 75 per cent of 1,000 18 to 64-year-olds surveyed have compared prices online ahead of making a purchase in the last six months.
Only 13 per cent of respondents said they had not conducted pre-purchase research, price comparison or looked at online reviews in the last half-year period before buying a product - either on the high street or on the web.
The popularity of comparing prices on the internet seems to apply to most retail sectors, with Lightspeed indicating that consumers go through this process when buying expensive items like personal technology and white goods, as well as smaller items such as clothing and books.
Indeed the co-founder of fashion price comparison website StyleCompare.co.uk, Jonny Challenger, told Retail Gazette last month that companies like his had helped change the retail landscape in recent years.
He suggested that they have increased awareness of offers and deals and with John Lewis and Next among the retailers set to partner with his firm later this month, it is clear that companies in the fashion sector attach a lot of importance to price comparison.
Lightspeed Research’s survey also looked into what influences people’s purchasing decisions online, with a quarter of respondents saying they change their minds about buying a product or service after reading two bad reviews. Some 39 per cent said it would take three negative reviews for them to opt out.
But despite its increasing ubiquity, social media is not yet playing a key role in influencing shoppers with just 17 per cent of those questioned indicating it was important that social network ‘friends’ gave products they were interested in a good review.
Ralph Risk, Marketing Director at Lightspeed Research Europe, commented: “Brands need to be aware of the influence that online reviews have, both positive and negative.
“There is a real danger that companies will focus on social media because it is so popular and in doing so miss out on the opinions that consumers actually value.”