No sugarcoating. We don’t need to be wooed. We detest smarmy salesmen who try to convince us that we absolutely need to buy something that we just don’t want. I find customer reviews and opinions such a vital part of any shopping experience (online or otherwise) that I typically trust the feedback more than information provided by the manufacturer or retailer.
According to Web Pro news, 83% of consumers say that product reviews influence their online purchasing decisions. Seventy percent of online shoppers actively seek out product reviews before they make a purchase. That’s huge. That’s a lot of buying power wielded by satisfied or dissatisfied customers.
How do these statistics apply to you and your shopping habits?
Research has become the norm for any type of product purchase. I think this is the result of more information, readily available at our fingertips. We have become smart consumers. Whether struggling with the challengers of a tough economic climate, or the exposure to more choices are available online than in a retail store, we seem to research even the smallest of purchases, to ensure that we are getting exactly what we want. Customer reviews should be a significant portion of the fact finding process.
I spent two hours researching before purchasing a $15 pair of swim goggles. Not because I was unsure about investing $15, but because I wanted the most effective pair of goggles, proven to withstand all of the rigors of regular use. Customer reviews from regular swimmers made all of the difference.
So, how can you tell when you are being led astray, being duped or if the review is indeed an honest account of what to expect from a certain product or service?
Critical Usually Means Honest
Although some reviews seem overly positive and some reviews far too negative, I tend to carefully read the ones that fall in between. Heed the reviews that take the time to point out both the good and the not so great things about the item. I typically look for the reviews that cite specific aspects in the design or product description. For example, if there is one particular feature that is marketed as the item that sets the product apart, it would behoove you to understand if this feature is worth the additional cost.
It is important to remember that some consumers may be far more critical than you. Use your best judgment. Will it bother you if the vibration in the baby bouncer is very slight? Does it matter how much of your Kindle screen is devoted to menus over content? Digest each comment based on your own consumer behavior.
That being said, don’t simply skim over the glowing reviews. They are definitely helpful. You need to confirm what makes the product amazing, even if you already have an idea.
I don’t want to say the more details the better, because that is not entirely true and can be painfully daunting to sift through. We need to save that extra time for shopping and trying out our own products. It’s not so much how many details as which details. Look for specifics about the product, how it works or how it fits. Pay more attention to user experiences rather than how many stars were awarded. I also try to ascertain whether this person actually put this product to the test or if the observations are more superficial. A superficial review will provide few details and may not even discuss their own personal experience with the product. However, someone who has taken the time to review the product in relation to the need it fulfilled can be very helpful. I would be much more willing to buy a running watch based on a runner’s review than the product description presented on the manufacturers website.
Images or Videos
This applies particularly to clothing or items that have to be assembled. Reviews with images can make all of the difference. I would rather buy a shirt that fits true to size, which I can see on a person modeling the clothing. I am a visual person. It’s hard for me to imagine where the hem of the skirt will hit, however when I see it modeled on someone who is relatively my same body size, I have a better idea of whether or not the piece will work in my closet. My favorite images include the ones with actual humans trying out the product.
Write Your Own
If a review guides you to purchase a particular product, don’t be shy. Offer your own review. Your voice is just as important as previous reviewers. Craft your review to include the compliments as well as the critiques. You are a smart consumer and you should make sure everyone knows it.