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Online Product Reviews – Can You Rely To Buy or Not

For many online shoppers, online product reviews are one of the reliable parameters whether to buy a product/avail service or not. I also rely on online product reviews to decide whether to buy a product or not. It is not a secret that some of these reviews are paid thus can influence your decision making. Sometimes online shoppers fail to find out whether the Online Product Reviews are genuine or fake. I am extra cautious during an online purchase. I am of the opinion that it is very important to check online product reviews, let’s check out why?

Online Product Reviews – Why it is important?

At the macro level, E-commerce is a gamble. You can save provided your strike rate to purchase quality and original product is more than savings in terms of purchase value. For example, last month i made an online purchase of Rs 20,000. I saved approx Rs 4,000 through cashback and discounts. All my financial benefits will wipe out if one of my purchase decision of Rs 4,000 goes wrong.

Now you must be wondering for standard products why should i check online product reviews. The answer is to avoid spurious products. Let me share example of Rechargeable Batteries bought by me recently from eCommerce website B. Here the catch is that the review of the batteries was superb on site A but they were available 25% cheaper on site B. Therefore, i checked the reviews of a product on site A and bought it from site B where the reviews were not so good. I was trapped and received the spurious product. The point i am trying to make is that site, where you are checking online product reviews and the site of purchase, should be the same. This is one of the reasons why you may find a different rating for same product across sites.

Now you must be wondering why should i waste my time on online product reviews. If i will not get a quality product then i can always return or replace the product. You are right but again there is a catch let’s check.

Why should you not return the product?

A few months back one of the news that went unnoticed was that e-commerce portal A blacklisted large no of online shoppers who are habitual in terms of returning the product. Fortunately or unfortunately, i know one such person :). He is my relative and based on his experience i conclude that

1. Top e-commerce sites have centralized database of address or mobile no of habitual offenders (who frequently return or replace products)

2. Once you are blocked from one e-commerce site, others will follow the suite and block you

Therefore, the conclusion is that you cannot return or replace the products frequently as you carry the risk of being blocked for future orders. In my case, i avoid returning or replacing small value purchase. Though, a couple of times i received defective or damaged product. Prevention is better than cure. Therefore, online product reviews is a crucial piece of information for an online purchase.

Beware of Online Product Reviews

1. Paid/Barter Reviews:

There are multiple types of paid reviews both direct and indirect. A new form that is emerging is barter. Barter reviews are not classified as paid reviews. For example, if an advertiser is sponsoring an ad on site X then in lieu of that site admin will allow the advertiser to host a couple of “paid” reviews. On the other hand, if i am part of some affiliate program then i will publish +ve reviews and sell the product thus trapping the potential buyers. I know one of the popular technology blog involved in this.

Also, it is very common to provide free product sampling to popular reviewers (for some people it is a full-time job to write online product reviews). You may find these habitual reviewers on all popular e-commerce sites. You should be beware of reviews from these popular reviewers. It’s but obvious that if i get some product for free then i will not write anything negative about the same.

One of the product bought by me with a rating of 4.7 was actually a 3rd class product. When i revisited the reviews i found that 80% reviews are from popular reviewers who received the product for free. I cursed myself and thought why i have not checked this earlier.

2. Verified Purchase:

Though review from customers who actually bought the product are more genuine. Therefore, after going through the review you can make out whether the review is genuine or fake. You can always reply and seek more info from the existing customer. I agree not everyone will revert but some people do revert.

I was saved on one such occasion. I was going through online product reviews of a recording mic. I could not find any information on the length of the cable though overall product rating was good. I posted my query in reply to few comments and i received revert that length of cable is just 1.5 meter. Whereas my requirement was min 5-meter cable. Therefore, you can rely more on customers with verified purchase. In the case of large value purchase, you can clarify your doubts.

3. Discounted products:

Normally discounted products get better ratings. For example, if a product costing is Rs 1000 and was offered at Rs 400 during promo period then it will get a better rating because of high perceived value at discounted price. If i am buying this product at Rs 400 then it is okay but maybe the product is not worth Rs 1000. Therefore, you also need to check the rate at which you are buying and the price at which the reviewer purchased.

It happened to me :). I bought a bottle of moisturiser at Rs 400 worth Rs 1000. Trust me compared to the price it was too good but at Rs 1000 you can get much better products/options. The people who bought the same product at Rs 1000 cursed the people who bought at Rs 400 and gave a 5-star rating to the product :).

4. Check from multiple sources:

If you are buying a high ticket item then besides e-commerce sites, you should check the online product reviews from multiple sources. It will help you to select the right product. The reviews can be biased on one site but not everywhere.

5. Buy from reputed seller:

It is based on my personal experience. I always check the seller credentials before a purchase. Sometimes to get a discount and deal we forget to check the seller details.  There is a possibility of getting spurious, seconds product, returned or defective product from a seller with a lower rating. Besides online product reviews, you should also check online seller review. I always highlight this point in my posts on e-commerce.

No offense to anyone but from a geography perspective, i always had very good experience with sellers from Mumbai and equally bad experience with sellers from Delhi or North India. To share an example, recently, i purchased a 10-meter bubble wrap from a seller in Delhi. It actually measured 7-meter :). Last time i ordered same product from a seller in Mumbai, i received 11 meters. This time the product was out of stock with Mumbai seller. This is just one of the recent examples.

Words of Wisdom:

The internet is a free and open place where anyone can post anything. There is NO accountability or responsibility. It has its own advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that it is a great source of information and knowledge. It can help in taking the right decision. The disadvantage is that if the information or online product reviews are not genuine then it may lead to a wrong purchase decision.

The onus or responsibility to find correct source of information rests with the buyer. Always remember that some people are being paid to share wrong information or write biased online product reviews :).

Copyright © Nitin Bhatia. All Rights Reserved.

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Ravi bhatia
Ravi bhatia
7 years ago

It’s good suggestion to get quality product and save money.

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