In the current cultural climate of news deemed fake, people two faced and facts so often misplaced, the world of online reviews has gotten seriously confusing. Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, a review would only appear, weekly, in a trusted print publication, penned by a paid expert and as such carrying a certain authority. But now we have to negotiate the minefield of budding journalistic layman, robot reviewers and unscrupulous business rivals, all purveyors of flawed, fictitious feedback and writing with their own agenda – not the public interest – in mind.  

It’s true though, that for better or worse, online reviews play a huge part in shopping in the wily old world wide web. According to recent research, 91% people regularly or often read online reviews. Quantity, and reach, therefore, isn’t the issue. Moreover, a whopping 84% of people trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. There, it seems, is where the problem lies. And lie, here, is the operative word. Well, we’re here to help, with these 4 IDEAL tips for navigating online reviews.

DON’T GET FOOLED

Obvious, we know, and this article by Buzzfeed on 19 reasons you should always read the damn reviews says it all. But in all seriousness, it’s all too easy to have the wool pulled over your eyes, and before you know it you’ve bought a piece of stewing lamb, not the bargain cashmere sweater you were hoping for. Too many times we’ve heard of people buying miniature deck chairs or doll clothes  on ebay, with the belief that they were big enough for humans. Oh and did you hear about that fake restaurant that became London’s hottest restaurant on Tripadvisor? There are some rouge sellers out there, no doubt, who sell items that don’t actually exist. Be super vigilant, and always have the danger of disappointment in mind…..

LEARN HOW TO SPOT A FAKE REVIEWER

Be wary of stella reviews that go into loads of detail, enthusing adjectives and exaggeration dripping over every syllable. There could well be written by a paid reviewer behind it, helping to boost business. It’s equally important to approach scathing reviews with a level of suspicion too, as they could be written by a competitor with an ulterior motive in mind.  If the review is purely negative or positive with absolutely no caveats then alarm bells should sound. Indeed a review history with just unwavering positivity or pure bile could indicate a troll account. Other red flags include; no review history or a newly created and anonymous accounts. Also, always look out for verified purchasers who paid money for the item in question as some dubious companies give out freebies in return for glowing feedback.

BROADEN YOUR RESEARCH

When buying a property, the mantra to follow is ‘location, location, location’ Well, when shopping online, it’s ‘research, research, research’. You should look far beyond the reviews you find on the description pages of the site you’re shopping. Anything listed as a testimonial, for instance, is best avoided. Think of yourself as an online shopping detective. Although all that detective work may take some time, you could potentially be saving yourself time and money in the long run.

Whether you’re checking a review of a restaurant or looking at online gaming reviews always look for feedback across a number of sources, such as Trustpilot, Feefo or Sitejabber, which aggregate customer reviews. If you found the reviews helpful, return the favour and leave an honest and accurate review for other people – it could also save them some time, money and possible anger in the long run.

TAKE ONLINE REVIEWS WITH A PINCH OF SALT

We know that a lot of online reviews are from fake bots or just written by angry, disgruntled, or simply having a bad day, people, therefore can be tricky to navigate. Indeed, online reviews should be read with a pinch of salt, especially when it comes to restaurant reviews. Be cautious, be vigilant and be thorough and you’re more likely to end up with an item you’re happy with.

SHARE
Rachel is the beauty and fashion director at IDEAL. She loves trying new products and is an avid fan of London's fashion, from the high end to the high street.