Consistent product information has become a critical factor in the online shopping experience, with 66% switching to a competitor if the product information they see online doesn't match what they have seen in-store or in a catalogue, according to researh conducted by data management firm Stibo Systems. This article is copyright 2010 The Best Customer Guide.

The survey highlighted a number of frustrations that consumers often face when trying to make purchasez online, and identified the key things that consumers want to know about the products they are trying to buy, as well as exploring the numerous ways in which they share their experiences with others.

Consumers expect a great deal from their online shopping experiences and are not afraid to go elsewhere if the information they receive is inadequate or inconsistent.

Interestingly, the research found that three quarters (75%) of consumers rate being able to search and compare products online as important or very important, with a further 28% indicating it is a 'deal breaker' and will only buy a product if they can compare it with similar items.

Social media channels play a key part in customer decision making and it's not just today's youth who are sharing product information and experiences via social web sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

In fact, the research found that 13% of the over 55 age group share product information via these sites at least once a week, rising to 25% of consumers aged 35-54. When it comes to the younger generations, more than 10% of 16-34 year olds share product information every day through channels such as Facebook and Twitter, and a further 38% share this kind of information on a weekly basis.

Over the past few years, the internet has created an insatiable consumer appetite for deep levels of product detail. Almost half of consumers find detailed information such as reviews and availability most useful when browsing online, with pictures, information on sizes, colour as well as availability of stock the absolute minimum required by 77%.

Moreover, two thirds of customers (66%) said they would switch retailer or abandon their purchase if the product information they receive online doesn't match what they have seen in-store or in a catalogue.

According to Mark Thorpe, managing director for Stibo Systems in the UK, "Today's consumers are more demanding, more price sensitive, and savvier than ever before, and this presents a challenge for retailers who are fighting for their own slice of market share. Thriving in this environment requires clear and continual visibility into demand, coupled with fast access to accurate product data, regardless of where that data might sit."