Brands are still an important influence on online consumers, according to a new study by AOL and the Henley Centre.

However, the research also asserts that customers are becoming less loyal to brands as a result of their online experience.

The study highlights the importance of customer research - 74% of online consumers actively research online before buying, while 76% feel that the internet allows them to make more informed decisions.

The most trusted sources of information were:

  • Search engines - 71%
  • Personal recommendations - 67%
  • Retailer's websites - 57%
  • Price comparison websites - 56%
  • Online reviews by experts - 50%

The study indicates that the amount of information available on the web makes it more likely that customers will switch brands - 42% of consumers have switched between firms as a result.

Brands still have a lot of influence though - 80% said they preferredto buy online from brands and retailers they were familiar with.

The research also delved into other influences on purchase decisions, with some interesting results:

  • Trust in the website's abilty to keep details safe - 88%
  • Delivery prices being clear - 87%
  • Usability of the website - 85%
  • Ability to check order status - 78%
  • Being able to take products back to offline store - 66%
  • Ability to access customer reviews - 48%

As for advertising, 51% of consumers said they would pay more attention to an ad on a site they trusted.

Further reading:
Consumers who research online spend more offline - report

Graham Charlton

Published 13 July, 2007 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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