Can You Trust Online Product Reviews?

Every year, more people are shopping online. According to Statista, more than 2 billion people are expected to buy goods and services online this year, up from 1.7 billion just five years ago. How can consumers decide what product to buy with all this digital retail?

Potential buyers can also benefit from the many reviews left by other shoppers. They can also be persuasive. The Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University found that “online reviews have a significant and quantifiable impact on purchase decisions.”

According to research by the center, there is a 270% higher chance that someone will buy a product if it has five positive reviews. Reviews that rate products in the 4.0-4.7 category have the most impact. However, too many reviews or too many perfect 5 stars can lead to a decrease in purchase probability.

Fake reviews are a problem. Research reported in the Harvard Business Journal found that some platforms have created algorithms to limit fake reviews. According to research, Amazon employed over 8,000 people and spent more than $500 million to curb fraud and abuse in 2019. The researchers found that Amazon deleted around 40% of fake reviews. However, it took on average more than 100 days for them to be removed.

Researchers also discovered that fake reviews are a common way for sellers to pay people to write them. This could be in exchange for cash or free products. These sellers recruited these people via Facebook.

The researchers stated that they had observed that as many as 4.5 Million sellers used these Facebook groups to source fake reviews in the last year.

Consumers who read here glowing reviews and then buy the product may be disappointed.

The Federal Trade Commission has taken steps to stop companies from paying for fake reviews. It filed a complaint in 2019 against a dietary supplement company alleging that it paid a website to post fake positive reviews and five-star ratings. The proposed court order to settle the case for $12.8million prohibits the company from “making misrepresentations about endorsements, including whether an endorsement is truthful and by an actual user.”

How can I spot a fake testimonial?

A PCMag survey found that while 78% of U.S. shoppers admit reviews on Amazon play a big role in their purchase decisions, only 33% said they felt even somewhat confident in spotting fake ones.

Here’s some help.

  • PCMag recommends that customers be cautious of negative or excessively positive reviews, especially if they don’t provide enough detail about why a product has been given a particular rating. According to PCMag, “very short five-star and one-star reviews are not good,” especially if they all appear on the same day.
  • Look for “Amazon Verified Purchase” reviews. If the website has “verified” that the reviewer purchased the product from Amazon, it will mark the title with this title.
  • Click on the profile link for the reviewer. “If their profile pages are empty, or were created the same day they wrote the review, that’s another red flag,” according to Money.
  • To verify that reviews are genuine, shoppers can use third-party websites or browser extensions. These free tools allow you to copy and paste URLs of products that you are interested in.

Fakespot uses algorithms to analyze product reviews for Amazon, BestBuy, Sephora, Steam, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Walmart to let consumers know whether those reviews are reliable. Fakespot also provides highlights that include information about the product’s cost, shipping, and quality.

ReviewMeta analyzes only Amazon product reviews and filters out any that may be less than genuine. The system will then adjust your rating based upon the genuine reviews.

The CEO of Fakespot, Saoud Khalifah, told CNN that phone accessories, electronics, and smaller appliances are primarily the products with fake reviews attached. Next time you are looking for a car charger, be sane, review the reviews, and then run them through one of the review checking sites.

You can then congratulate yourself that you will never receive a 5-star-rated product in the mail, only to find out its junk.