Product Reviews: Can You Trust Them?

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

Online shopping is becoming more and more popular, especially during the holidays when stores are over-crowded and shelves are picked over. Sitting in front of a computer from the comfort and  quiet of your own home is quickly becoming the preferred shopping method for thousands of people. Online shopping has the advantages of convenience, speed, privacy, and personal service; but it also has some disadvantages. First of all, you can’t physically touch the product; you can only view pictures that may skew the perceived color, size, material, and other details of the product. This alone is a challenge.  Add to it the very real possibility that reviews you read about the product may not be genuine, and you may be wondering if  the problems of online shopping outweigh the advantages.

It’s estimated that roughly 30% of online product reviews are fake. Even I was surprised at this possibility, as online consumer reviews have influenced many of my purchases. Apparently companies pay (often very well) for fake or slanted reviews of their products, which are often published on multiple sites.  The intention of this dishonest business practice is to tip the scales in favor of their products or their sites. If customers only see positive reviews, they can be deceived into purchasing a product.

With so many fake reviews, how are we supposed to tell the difference to avoid being conned or, at the very least, wasting our time and money on return shipping? Here are some guidelines you may find helpful as you navigate the emerging world of online shopping. 

Be skeptical of reviews that are too positive. 
Even though you may think a review sounds genuine, it could still be a fake. Many companies train their writers to write in a conversational and believable tone to appeal to our trust. The biggest clue that a review may be a fake is a complete lack of negativity.  This isn’t to say that there won’t be positive reviews that are genuine, but real reviews will contain both positive and negative points about the product, even if the negative points are outweighed by the positive.  Real reviews generally remain neutral and unbiased. Any review that expresses very strong emotion about a product or service should be questioned.

View as many reviews as possible to gain perspective.
The more reviews you read from different sites and perspectives, the more you’ll build an accurate picture of the product.  In the sheer number of reviews you read, you’re bound to get some that are genuine, even if there are fakes mixed in. Check popular review sites as well as reviews directly on shopping websites.

Look for repetitive wording and a lack of unique experience.
Each customer’s experience should be unique in some way, containing  unique word choices and tone.  If several reviews contain similar wording, there’s a strong chance they’re duplicates by the same author or company, and shouldn’t be depended on. Often, paid review writers will not even have the product in their possession or have ever seen it in person. Reviews that don’t contain specific details or line up with the majority of other product descriptions are probably fakes.

Look for reviews by people similar to you.
Even if a review isn’t fake, it may not be relevant or useful to you. It’s important to keep in mind the point of view behind the review — where the person is from, how old they are, and what kind of lifestyle they live. Something that is entirely wrong for them may be exactly what you’re looking for.  This is one reason many sites now offer recommendations based on reviews by customers most similar to your profile, or the line “people who bought this product also bought ___.”

Using these tips will go a long way in helping you avoid purchasing mistakes while your shop online this holiday season, so you can enjoy all the benefits and none of the possible pitfalls of online shopping.

Bonus Tip:

You can seriously cut your Internet and TV costs. Find a Verizon FiOS promotion code here and you might be able to spend less every month.

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