Can You Trust Online Reviews?

Advice For Seniors

five-star rating online reviews

An online review can be a valuable tool, if you know how to use them.

When you are ready to make an investment in a service or a product, you want to know for sure if you are going to have a good experience. There are plenty of ways to research your potential new purchase but perhaps the best is to ask for a review from someone you know who has used the product or service. Today, online reviews are just as popular and accessible as reviews you might get from a neighbor, family member, or friend.

However, can you really trust online reviews? You must learn how to sift through the potentially fake reviews and use the real reviews wisely without feeling pressured from an online group of reviewers. Let’s find out more about how to use online reviews to shape your opinion while still using good discernment.

 

Why Do Customers Trust Online Reviews?

In today’s world, if we have a question, we often turn to the internet for the answer. You can find the answer to nearly any query online, which is why it only makes sense to research companies, services, and products online as well.

Online reviews can be found very easily, which increases their popularity among consumers. A quick internet search about the product, service, or business you are researching will pull up reviews from any number of sites. Google, Facebook, Yelp, Amazon, and ConsumerReports are just a few of the more common places to find a review. 

Not only can reviews be found easily, they are also easy to sift and sort through. Most sites filter their reviews by relevance, which can make it even more convenient to find what the general public is saying about their experiences.

Finally, customers love online reviews because the reviews cover a variety of topics. It’s common for an online review to talk about everything from pricing to customer service experience to concerns. Online browsers enjoy being able to get a lot of information from the perspective of someone who has already made the purchase.

 

Why ‘Healthy Skepticism’ Is Warranted

With all the convenience of online reviews, it is wise to still approach any online forum with a dose of healthy skepticism. Unfortunately, while online review sites have tried to find a vetting system for reviews, there are still ways that an angry customer can post a scathing evaluation of their experience. 

You can still utilize online reviews as a part of your purchasing decision, but it is wise to remember that not every review is a representation of what your experience could be.

 

How to Spot Fake Reviews

checking out online reviews

Learning how to spot fake online reviews can help you weed out the noise.

Fake reviews happen often, and it’s not always to put down a company or service. In fact, many fake reviews can be used to taut the positives of a product or service, helping the product or service reach the top of search engine lists. Whether it is a positive or negative review, here are a few telltale signs that it could be a fake:

  • The reviewer doesn’t have a history of reviews on the site. If you find a reviewer who has frequently reviewed local spots or types of products, you can be more sure that they are a real review.
  • The reviewer is not a “verified purchaser”. Not every review website has this option, but Amazon for example does note if the review was given by someone who actually purchased the item. This can be helpful as you decide which reviews to take into consideration.
  • The review is too emotional. Be wary of any review that is extremely negative or overwhelmingly positive. Either side of the scale can indicate the reviewer is fake.
  • The review is quite short. In many cases, a brief review that lacks any detail can indicate it is fake.
  • The review is difficult to read. Fake reviews are often jumbled or difficult to read.

Why Real Reviews Are Still Valuable

Once you eliminate potentially fake reviews from your radar, you can still find benefit in crowdsourcing through real reviews. A good review, or group of reviews, can tell you more information that will help you determine if the cost is worth the service or product. Reviews can also give you tips about:

  • Good times to shop at a business or call in order to get more 1:1 attention
  • Pricing during sales, as well as a heads up for when a sale might be more likely to happen
  • Any potential problems or complications with the service or product
  • How to set up the product or how to troubleshoot common issues easily
  • Any shipping delays or customer service concerns

Real reviews also ensure transparency from businesses and hold employees accountable for service, whether poor or outstanding. You can learn a lot about how a business operates by reading reviews as well as any follow-up responses from the company. 

 

How to Make an Informed Purchasing Decision

When you are in the process of making an informed purchasing decision, it is wise to consult online reviews. However, you don’t have to take every potentially real review to heart, as nearly every product, service, or business is bound to have mixed reviews.

Here are a few ways you can make your most confident decision while using online reviews:

  • Take an overhead shot of the reviews as a group, instead of focusing on one very positive or very negative review.
  • Remember that reviews are often completed immediately after a transaction, which can lead to more emotional language. In short, that really angry reviewer was probably not quite as frustrated with his experience after he cooled down for a few hours.
  • Read the response to the review from the business. This can help you determine if a company is responsive and accountable.
  • Do what is best for you. It is easy to become influenced by a group of reviews, but remember that your situation is not exactly like the situations of others. Your decision is still in your hands and you don’t have to feel pushed in one direction just because a group of reviewers went that way.
  • Don’t forget to still ask your neighbors, family members, and friends about their experiences. “In real life” reviews from people you know and trust is quite valuable and can lead you to your best decision.

Takeaways

Online reviews are one way to research a company, service, or product. These reviews can help you gather information so you know the questions to ask or actions to take before, during, or after a purchase. However, online reviews should never be the only way you research purchases, but a tool you can pull out of the purchasing toolbox as needed.