Can I Trust Online Product Reviews & Are They Genuine?

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I saw an article in the news the other day about "Christmas shoppers warned about fake online reviews - here's how to protect yourself". It made me think about how others might view product reviews and whether they can be trusted.

5 star review rating

Businesses Rely On Reviews

Small businesses, in particular, depend on both word-of-mouth reviews and ones posted online. How often when considering purchasing an item do you look at the reviews? Or ask someone you know (or a local Facebook group) for recommendations for a local florist, painter, plumber, hairdresser etc? So having plenty of good reviews is important for any small business in order to attract more customers to purchase from them.

How Often Are Reviews Left

It depends... For highly personalised items where there is a lot of interaction with the business, customers are far more likely to leave a review due to the large interaction that they have. Where it's easy to buy with just a few clicks and no interaction is needed, then the number of customers who leave reviews is far smaller. In my experience, approximately 10-15% of those that have purchased a product will leave a review.

How Do I Know Whether The Reviews Are Genuine?

Which? have an article discussing how to spot fake reviews. Most small businesses will fall under their advice section of:

"Take extra care buying unknown brands - While many smaller brands that you don't recognise could be honest start-ups trying to find an audience in a crowded market, others attempt to take shortcuts to jump to the top of the listings. Time and again we've found fake reviews on brands we didn't recognise, and on most occasions it's difficult or impossible to get in touch with the brand to find out more. If you don't recognise a brand, check online to see if it has a legitimate looking website, with clear contact details so you can get in touch if anything goes wrong. You could even try calling or emailing the seller with a question, to see how quickly they respond."

It's not uncommon for small businesses, myself included to sell more through the big marketplace sites than through their own website. So many small business websites struggle to gain direct reviews posted onto their own site. As the majority of their reviews are written on the big marketplaces due to the volume of sales through those sites.

My solution to show off my customer's reviews for my products are to request those customers who have left reviews elsewhere if they would allow me to copy their review to this website. The majority of my customers do give permission for this. So whilst they might not have purchased through my website they are genuine reviews of my products and customer service. (My main selling site is Etsy so you can find many of the reviews on this site are customers who have purchased via Etsy and left me a review there.)

If You're Unsure About A Products Reviews

If you find the *perfect* item that you just want to buy, but you're unsure whether the reviews are genuine and to be trusted then:

santa placing presents under a christmas tree (Photo credit: Matthew Henry)

  • Purchase through a site that you trust (e.g. a large marketplace site)
  • Pay via credit card or another secure online payment system like PayPal.

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