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Business News/ News / World/  The Smartest Ways to Use Online Reviews When Shopping

The Smartest Ways to Use Online Reviews When Shopping


Among other things: Don’t fall for the captivating stories people tell

A woman uses an e-commerce platform amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic (AFP)Premium
A woman uses an e-commerce platform amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic (AFP)

When sifting through online reviews, shoppers may fall prey to some common psychological pitfalls. For instance, they overrely on entertaining stories that get bumped to the top of the list for the wrong reasons, or they click away from a product with one terrible review.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of other consumers’ reviews and ratings, based on the latest insights gleaned from research.

1. Look for reviews that deviate from what most people are saying. We tend to be drawn to what the herd is doing or saying, so seek out a reality check. In the case of a product that gets lots of positive reviews, for instance, look for moderate or negative ones.

2. Don’t write off reviewers who bought something they didn’t like and ended up replacing it. In fact, research shows that reviewers who admit having made a purchasing mistake in the past are often perceived as more trustworthy.

3. Focus on the specifics. Look for specific, objective statements about quality, not just the reviewer’s taste or opinion. For example, “The strap broke after two months" (quality), not “I hate the color" (taste).

4. Read the charts carefully. It’s common to eyeball the bar charts of review scores and jump to incorrect conclusions about the numbers. Instead of focusing on the bars, look at overall average scores.

5. Don’t fall for the stories. We all love a good story—perhaps a little too much. Reviews that tell a story are more persuasive, but they’re not necessarily the most helpful. Make sure you’re getting useful information, not just being swept along by an entertaining tale.

6. Take one-star reviews with a pinch of salt. Sometimes people hate a product for good reason, but other times they’re just blowing off steam. Recent research found that a quarter of negative reviews were unfair, meaning that the reviewer was complaining about something outside the seller’s control or making excessive demands.

7. Beware active reviewers. A 2019 University of Hamburg analysis of fake reviews on mobile-app stores found that fake reviewers submit 12 times as many reviews as genuine customers. They also tend to write slightly longer reviews, and the top five words used more often in fake reviews were “simple," “super," “little," “recommend" and “well", according to one of the authors, Daniel Martens.

8. Don’t be seduced by high numbers. A 2017 study led by Derek Powell at Stanford University’s Department of Psychology found that people tend to favor products with lots of reviews, even when those reviews are bad. Resist that temptation, and instead go for quality over quantity.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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