Isn’t the internet fantastic? Consumers have grasped this major contraption and suddenly we have immense power over companies. Gone are the days we rely solely upon their product descriptions and promises. After all, how can we truly trust what a company tells us? They’re just slapping on a big greasy smile, lulling us in, and BAM next thing you know your wallet’s empty. But now we have the capability to hear from other consumers, the good, the bad and the ugly about a company and its products. We have created an online community where we lean on one another, trust one another, and guide one another’s purchases. This is generally seen through online reviews. We have a vast array of blogs, general review websites as well as reviews on specific websites that help us to make our vital purchase decisions. However! Just how often can we trust these reviews?
Well there are some traps consumers need to be aware of when it comes to trusting these online advice sources.
Website Specific Reviews:
One problem with trusting reviews is that you never know whether the company who owns the site is moderating those reviews. I recently tried purchasing a dress for my 21st next year from Kiss Dresses (see http://www.kissdresses.com/wedding-dresses-ol/wedding-dresses.html). After much research I decided on this website, the reviews looked genuine and I was sucked in by the price. After waiting over 2 months for my dress to be dispatched I MAY have lost my cool and cancelled my order demanding my money back. One piece of research I SHOULD have conducted was for a website like TrustPilot or SiteJabber. These websites are run by independent parties for consumers to help let others know whether a website is trustworthy or not. This website was not!
Wow! Look at all the positive reviews!
Make sure you look at multiple websites, get opinions from a number of sites, and watch some video reviews on YouTube. You never know if a company has purchased bulk positive reviews. Generally these are purchased from offshore companies that will post review after review with fake alias and addresses (see http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/jan/26/fake-reviews-plague-consumer-websites). Some companies will do this to deceive their consumers and trick them into believing a product is fantastic. It’s much better to trust a website that has both positive AND negative reviews because then you know that these were not moderated by the company, and most likely were provided by real consumers.
This Company Got Slammed!
Lots and lots of bad reviews? Maybe something fishy is going on. Either the company has done something severely wrong (let’s face it, you’d probably hear about in the news) or they’re the receiver for some kind of scam. I learned from Mike Golden at Adsmith China last year on the Monash Marketing China Program trip, that sometimes companies can be at the receiving end of threats from influential individuals. Kind of the polar opposite of bulk positive reviews, but instead you have lots of negative reviews. Mike described these as ‘zombie reviews’. Once again these are usually a single person posting multiple reviews from different aliases. Alternatively it could also be from competitors who want to discourage you from a purchase. When it comes to reading these reviews, perhaps it’s best to look for independent websites that will provide the pro’s, cons and even videos to demonstrate products. Often these independent sources will describe the type of people who would enjoy, or not enjoy a product. And once again; perhaps look at multiple independent sites to avoid bias.
So guys! Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way. Next time you want to research online, keep these little things in mind. All the information is out in the big wide web for the taking. Realise the consumer control you hold, and the power you wield! Are there any other tips and tricks you can think of to give consumers the power in their purchases?? Post a comment below!