Making a Major Purchase? Don’t Trust Online Reviews

Over the past decade, the internet has been responsible for a major shift in the way we buy things. By making information more freely available, the internet has transferred the balance of power from the salespeople into the hands of the consumer.

Don't Trust Online ReviewsIt used to be that if you were looking to make a major buying decision, you were at the mercy of a salesperson to provide you with expert advice. The problem is, typically that advice is directly tied to the size of their commission at the end of the sale. You could never be sure if you could trust the salesperson to have your best interests at heart.

Now, you can find that same advice pretty much everywhere: on blogs (like this one), buying guides, YouTube product reviews, business directories like Yelp and Angie’s List, and consumer review sites like Consumer Reports.

Best of all, none of this costs anything, and you’ll save money in the long haul by making a more informed purchase. Just settle on a price range, read comparison articles and check the product reviews online. If it has positive reviews and a high star rating, you’re in the clear, right?

…Right?

You Can’t Always Trust Online Reviews

The problem is, as consumers relocate online, businesses are following right in their tracks. With real consumers being persuaded by online reviews – and real money changing hands – businesses naturally have an incentive to be where their customers are.

And, like the salesperson chasing commissions, the advice you receive from online reviews is often planted by businesses and driven by an ulterior motive.

Up to 25% of Yelp reviews and 35% of online product reviews are fake. (Tweet this)

Baseless. Fabricated. Totally made-up. And for malicious, self-serving purposes.

Like the salesperson you spoke with ten years ago, 35% of reviews are designed to close the sale, at the expense of giving you useful, relevant advice.

These malicious reviews are posted by the business owner, his/her friends, or even a professional agency hired to fudge online reviews (they exist). If you don’t keep this in mind when you research your appliance purchase, you could get burned buying a lemon with inflated ratings.

3 (More) Issues We Have With Online Review Sites

Disingenious reviews are bad enough, but that’s not all. For appliances (and generally, any product with a long ownership cycle), review sites are a crapshoot at best. Think about it:

  • Most consumers review products within a few months, if not weeks, of purchase. If someone sold you a refrigerator that died in 6 months, would you consider that to be a great deal? Nope – you’d be irate. And yet, 6 months is well past the “grace period” for online reviews, meaning most reliability & longevity concerns are never addressed, even in reviews from genuine owners.
  • Online reviews are either “all or nothing,” heavily skewed toward 1-star and 5-star ratings. Only 25-30% of products reviewed online are rated 2-4 stars. The star rating system is points-based, but 70% of reviewers are basically giving a yes or no verdict on a product. “Average” products get pushed toward either end of the spectrum.
  • Misplaced blame. That angry reviewer complaining about a dishwasher leak? It’s much more likely an installation issue than a defect, but the customer won’t know that. When they write a poor review, it’s a black mark on the product, even if the installer screwed up the hose connection.

This is not to say all reviews are disingenuous, fake and useless. They’re just polluted enough that you should take them with the largest grain of salt you can dig out of your shaker.

So how do you make a smart buying decision? Take your research into consideration, but always get a second opinion.

Ask a friend who owns what you plan on buying. They are more likely to give you an honest assessment of how it feels to own a product on a day-to-day basis. They also have a more complex assessment of their purchase than just “amazing” vs. “terrible.”

You can also ask me personally by calling (617) 268-7500 or emailing me with the form below. Our family has been in this industry for four generations, and we win people back with our attentive, low-pressure sales approach.

Our goal is to communicate our 60+ years of knowledge to the customer, recommend choices based on your budget and empower you buy the appliances you’ll love in your home.

I hope we can help you make sense of the appliance buying process soon.

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