The 2011 holiday shopping season showed that parents and other consumers are shopping online more and more. As a result, consumer product reviews play an ever larger role in helping us decide which products and services are worth buying.
Brands know how important product reviews are to their bottom lines and some are willing to post positive reviews themselves or pay others to do so in order to ensure their products are well thought of by shoppers.
In fact, an article in Businessweek states that as many as 30% of reviews you see on retail sites like Amazon and Best Buy and travel sites like TripAdvisor can be fake. Yep. People were paid with freebies or cold, hard cash to write good reviews for the product. Some were even paid to trash a competitor’s brand.
Regulatory groups are trying to crack down on fake reviews, and they’re working on methods to spot them. In the meantime, how can you tell if a review is the real deal?
Most experts agree that it can be difficult or even impossible for the average shopper to tell a fake review from a real one. Just knowing that they’re out there is the first step. Here are a couple of ways I approach consumer reviews.
- I generally ignore five star reviews. I’m not really interested in how wonderful someone thinks a product is. I pay more attention to the three star review that lists positives AND negatives.
- I also prefer to scan through the reviews and note negatives and positive attributes listed by various reviews (good and bad) rather than taking one or two reviews to heart. If there’s only one review of a product, I feel that it’s safest to assume that it’s fake.
A few more tips, culled from the sources listed below:
- Ignore over-the-top praise or condemnation, as well as adjectives like “awesome”, “horrible”, and “best” in reviews.
- Seek out reviews on sites that don’t sell the product. However, keep in mind that bloggers often receive compensation for reviews, too.
- Consult reviews by professionals without a financial interest in the product’s success. You’ll find them on sites like ConsumerReports.org.
Do you feel like you’ve seen fake product reviews? How do you approach reviews when deciding whether to buy a product or service?
- For $2 a Star, an Online Retailer Gets 5-Star Product Reviews @ NYTimes.com
- 11 Tips to Avoid Fake Reviews @ Money Talks News
- How to Spot Fake Online Product Reviews @ MSNBC.com
- A Lie Detector Test for Online Reviewers @ Bloomberg Businessweek