Online Reviews are incredibly powerful tools when it comes to making a purchase.
A traditional advertisement is inherently biased since the company making any claims in their ad has a financial interest in getting you to buy their product or service. That’s why it is hard to trust billboards and commercials, but easy to trust reviews by objective third parties. After all, if you were shopping around for a new car and a close friend recommended a particular dealer to you than you would be more likely to be persuaded by that friend’s suggestion than by any car ad you saw online or on television, right? Of course you would.
Below we will look at how reviews affect online shopping in particular, both in terms of why third-party reviews are so important when shopping online and how to go about finding the reviews you can trust.
There are So Many Products and Services Online That it is Difficult to Decide What to Buy
First, let’s talk about why third-party reviews have become so important for online shoppers. In a single word, it’s because of one thing: choice. Consumers simply have so many products to choose from online that comparing each one and determining which is best has become overly burdensome. In the past, if you were shopping for a certain product you would head to your local store and compare just a handful of brands based on what you already knew about those brands and whatever information was on the package.
Today, however, shopping is completely different. You may have dozens, even hundreds, of different brands to choose from, and it may be hard to tell what the difference is between one brand and the next. While you could simply choose the cheapest option, there is always the justified fear that the cheapest product may not be the best. That’s where third-party reviews come in.
Third-Party Reviews Build Trust
As Forbes reports, about 88 percent of Americans trust third-party online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. That figure might sound surprisingly high–after all, third-party reviewers tend to be complete strangers–but it also makes a lot of sense. After all, when people read third-party online reviews, especially on review service sites like Google, Yelp, or Angie’s List, they assume that the reviewers are real customers offering their honest opinion. Furthermore, because there tend to be so many reviewers, customers can get a good idea of how good a product is even if there is the occasional reviewer who is providing a less-than-honest opinion (such as a restaurant owner offering a 5-star review of the food at his own rather unappetizing restaurant).
Ranking and Comparing Products or Services Side by Side Makes Buying Decisions Easier
While reviews have empowered customers in new and exciting ways, the sheer number of reviews also poses its own challenge. If you are weighing two different products that both have a 4 out of 5 star rating, for example, how do you know which one is best? One way is to look at how many people have actually reviewed each product. If one product has 100 reviews and the other only has two, then you should give more weight to the former product or service. You should also check reviews from a wide variety of sites, like Amazon, Yelp, Google+, Angie’s List, and so on.
In fact, a product that has no negative reviews is less likely to attract buyers compared to a product that has mostly positive reviews but the occasional negative one too. One study, for example, found that 68 percent of customers are more likely to trust a business if there is a mix of positive and negative reviews, whereas 30 percent of customers suspect a company that has only positive reviews is fabricating those reviews itself. That’s why it pays to compare products not just based on how good their reviews are, but by how many overall reviews they have.
However, if you are finding that doing all of this comparing of different reviews is becoming more of a hassle than it is worth, you may want to use a shortcut and use an online service, such as WatchTheReview, that compares different products side by side according to the site’s rating as well as the ratings of actual users.
User Reviews are Some of the Most Trusted Types of Online Reviews
It is also important to keep in mind that there are many different types of reviews on many different types of platforms, some more trustworthy than others.
You may find reviews on
- a company’s own website
- on niche review websites
- on YouTube
- social media
- or elsewhere
In some cases, reviewers may be paid by the companies whose products they are reviewing. But does that mean that those reviewers shouldn’t be trusted? The answer depends on the situation.
Let’s take the example of “haulers.” In recent years, companies like J.C. Penney and American Eagle have been paying teenage girls to post YouTube videos of their shopping mall “hauls” (i.e., purchases). These haulers have enormous influence on the shopping habits of many teenage girls and one may think that such haulers are less trustworthy because they are being paid by the stores they are shopping at. In fact, the opposite is the case: because the haulers are transparent about being paid by these companies and because the companies don’t put any pressure on them to give positive reviews, they tend to be much more trusted by their viewers.
The point to take away from the above is just how important reviews have become when making online shopping decisions. Review products and review services place a huge amount of power in the hands of consumers, not just in terms of how consumers decide what to buy but also in terms of how they can influence others consumers’ decisions.