One great thing about shopping online is that ratings and reviews for the items you’re interested in are readily available, whether it’s for a regular store such as Amazon or whether it’s an app store such as Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. But do these ratings and reviews make a difference to your purchase decisions?
We asked our writers, “Do you trust ratings and reviews at online stores?”
Ada admits she does trust the ratings and reviews but not blindly. She reports that she skips the reviews that feature wording such as “Great!” “Awesome,” or “The Best!!!!!!!” She looks for more in-depth feedback, while keeping in mind that even the items with the best reviews aren’t necessarily great and vice versa. “A strong positive/negative review can influence” her on something she’s interested in, but it doesn’t hold true the other way around.
Kenneth finds online reviews for stores like Amazon quite resourceful and doesn’t buy many things without first checking the ratings and reading the reviews. “I believe consumer reviews can help you to identify fake products as well as learn more about how a product performs in the key areas.”
Miguel appreciates when the stores let him know whether or not a reviewer is a verified buyer. “Most of the time I would still read reviews on a particular product on other sites from people who know what they’re supposed to test for,” as sometimes he comes across a great product with poor reviews because the reviewers don’t know how to use the products properly. He finds this especially true for power tools, stovetops, and fermentation vessels.
Andrew trusts online reviews “to the extent that they seem balanced and accurate in a qualitative sense, which is often more than a matter of experience and intuition than anything else.” He mentions the indicators of reviews written by bots or review mills, such as non-specific language, poor grammar, and lack of personal detail/tone.
He also feels it’s important to look at the distribution of the stores. If there is mostly five-star and one-star reviews and not much in the middle, it’s a red flag to him. That’s why he prefers to read just the three-star and four-star reviews from people who’ve had only minor issues with a product.
Ernes notes that when he’s had prior knowledge of a product, 90% of the time he receives exactly what he’s ordered, so he trusts those reviews. But if he’s trying something for the first time, he won’t take those reviews at face value. Instead, he takes other reviews into account or watches unboxing videos. Depending on the product, he might consult a friend with more experience in the product or vendor as well. “I can usually verify whether a vendor is legitimate by checking whether they are BBB-accredited.”
With regards to mobile apps, he approaches them the same way, “although I’m usually not as thorough unless I have to pay for them.” If the only available reviews are on the product’s website, he takes positive and negative reviews into account, even when the percentage split is 80% positive and 20% negative.
Alex explains that if there are many reviews all saying the same thing, be it positive or negative, he’ll trust it. What he’s wary of are “solitary, extravagant reviews that sound like Dr. John’s Cure-All Serum advertisements.” He filters out the reviews that are fake or purchased with ReviewMeta on Firefox. Alex doesn’t trust App Store reviews at all, as they seem to be “primarily people complaining that the software doesn’t do everything under the sun” or complaining about the development process.
I actually had a job collecting Amazon reviews for different products and writing aggregate reviews. And all of the things mentioned by the other MTE writers are 100% true. From people who don’t understand a product, to purchased reviews, to the reviews without any middle ground to them or that are far too broad. I take all those things into consideration whether I will trust the reviews or not.
Certainly this is something you have opinions on as well. Most people today buy at least one thing online. How do you feel about the opinions from reviewers? Do you agree with our writers who themselves are sometimes paid reviewers on this site? Do you trust ratings and reviews at online stores? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.