Read Product Reviews to Find the Best Value

It’s not uncommon to ask a friend or neighbor how they like a particular item they have purchased. This could be a mixer, a grill, or any other item. People like to know what others think of a particular item before they go out and buy it. That’s the same thing with shopping online and ecommerce, except for the fact that you can’t easily ask your friend or neighbor what their experiences are. That’s where product reviews come into play.

Surely, as you have been shopping online you have noticed under a product it’s star rating. Not all websites offer this, but many do, and this is where you can easily read reviews and see what others have to say about a product. Generally, if a product only has one or two ratings you can’t take the information 100% at face value. That’s because although many reviews are written by legitimate consumers, some are fake reviews to make the product look better than it is. So, when you are shopping online and using product reviews to help you make a decision you need to know what to look for.

First of all, don’t look just at the star rating. Actually read what the reviewers said. This will give you good insight into the product and whether it will work for you or not. For example, you may see a product rated at 4.5 stars, which is a great rating. However, when you begin reading the reviews you notice the lower ratings were given by people who complained the dimensions of the product were larger than specified on the box. If you have a tight space then this is important information to you and may change your mind as to whether or not you should buy the item. The same thing goes for software. What if the software has great reviews, but the reviews left were all by computer programmers? This might mean the product is more advanced than you would like to think or that you won’t be able to use it as it was intended.

When it comes to shopping online product reviews are truly the only way for individuals to get a good idea of what is good and not so good about an item they are interested in buying. Keep in mind, too, that there are other websites that are in the business of writing reviews so you should do a little bit of research and see what various reviews say about a particular product before making a purchase. Putting in a little bit of effort on the front end will allow you to buy an item that is most likely to work for you and your needs.

Product Reviews, Save Money on Discount Codes and Time

Shopping online for products has clear advantages over shopping at your local shop, below I have covered a few of the advantages shopping this way.

Product Reviews

When shopping on the High Street, you miss out on the opportunity to learn what other people thought about a product, the sales assistant in the shop is certainly not going to tell you what faults the product has and how many returns they have had to deal with. Their key role is to make the sale, by browsing and spending twenty minutes or so online researching a product, you can make a real difference and more importantly make the correct buying decision.

Shopping online offers you the chance to research and read reviews about the product you are interested in, not only will this boost your confidence in purchasing after you have read many positive remarks about it, but it will highlight any issues for you if there are negatives to be wary off. Always do your research before purchasing a product online, if you can’t find any reviews but still have questions, ask the retailer what questions you may have and see if they can help you out, not only will this give you confidence in the retailer if they answer your query correctly and in a timely manner, but it will also give you warning signs if the retailer fails to reply, replies late or replies without really answering your question.

Save Money on Discount Codes

After reviewing the product you want and 100% knowing this is the one for you, before reaching for your debit card to make the sale, you should look around and see if there are any current discount codes to be used at the retailers checkout page.

Discount codes usually offer some sort of percentage of the sale price, or even free shipping. So always be on the look out for discount offers, they can put that extra money in your pocket to treat yourself to something else. They may not always seem like you are saving much, but any saving is a good saving, and if you regularly shopped online over the year, you will be surprised at just how you would be saving yourself long term. Always make sure you fill in the correct discount code at the checkout so it will be correctly used for you, and always be wary of expiring dates for any codes, or any set criteria that must be met before the code is valid, several companies promoting these codes may fail to provide the correct information so exercise some caution when using.

Another way you can save money is through shopping at sites whom offer you a percentage of the sale paid back directly to you. You should never have to pay to join a site which offers this, and mostly all of them will offer you a cash incentive just for signing up.

Combining all these methods throughout the whole year, you would be saving a considerable amount of money, and the fun part is, they are simple to do and all free to do.

Time

Mostly everyone these days is short on time, we work, we come home, we want to relax. Online shopping can be done in the comfort of your own home, so you can spend that time wisely on making all the correct decisions, not an easy thing to do when tired and frustrated in a shop on the High Street, being harassed by a young man eager on making a sale. You control the time, never rush buy from home, make sure you are relaxed, pour your favourite hot drink and then go about your business, afterall it is your money you are spending, you want it to go to the right retailer, for the right product, at the best price.

The Rise of Social Shopping and User Reviews

Why I think customer reviews and social shopping are important. Social shopping is an interesting concept which divides opinion amongst web commentators.

Most are agreed that social shopping is a specific type of web service with its roots in the social explosion of Web 2.0.

In their purest form the best social shopping sites provide an open independent platform where users can add products, post a review or provide a product rating. The sites are service orientated, providing the tools for others to use and as such rely heavily on user generated content to set the agenda.

In essence the opportunity now exists for consumers to band together, discuss specific products and brands and provide an authentic alternative voice to the brand led marketing activity and conventional expert reviews we are all subjected to in other media.

By sharing product knowledge and experiences, creating useful content, an empowered community consensus can emerge, highlighting the gems and warning against the over hyped duds – the products which disappoint and fail to deliver.

This type of user generated content has a real value and satisfies an important element of the online shopping process – research, which accounts for 80% of consumer time when they are shopping online.

Social shopping sites combine social elements such as a social networking community features with aspects of shopping such as product reviews, ratings and deal hunting.

Some of the more agile social shopping sites are making use of the Twitter API and Facebook Connect to tap in to the online conversation, providing context for product related Tweets on Twitter and distribution of product opinion via Facebook.

Social shopping sites can be viewed as a value added evolution of the affiliate model – as they seek to monetize website content (the user generated product reviews and ratings) by sending traffic to third party merchant sites where they can purchase product.

My starting position is to agree with the mantra that “customer recommendation is the Holy Grail of Advertising”. We know this is true in the real world – if your friends and neighbours enthuse about their new car, lawnmower, laptop or digital camera – it will have weight, you take note.

The same holds online – reviews and recommendations are very powerful; especially those from people with status in a community, and those which are provided weeks and months after the purchase; only the scale and dynamics of relationships differ. The potential then of social shopping and what it offers us as consumers, product designers, specialist retailers and brands which really focus on and respond to their community is very exciting.

Some statistics and predictions from rantorave.

According to a global Nielsen survey of 26,486 Internet users in 47 markets, consumer recommendations are the most credible form of advertising among 78% of the study’s respondents. (Nielsen, “Word-of-Mouth the Most Powerful Selling Tool”).

83% of shoppers said online product evaluations and reviews influenced their purchasing decisions. (Opinion Research Corporation, an infoGROUP company, July 2008).

76% of US retailers said user-generated content would have a greater impact on their marketing goals in the near future. (SLI Systems/Zoomerang, November 2008).

56% of UK website owners say that user-generated content lifts conversion levels; 77% say it increases traffic; and 42% say it increases the average spend on site.(eConsultancy survey of 360 website owners across all sectors, November 2008).

By 2020, 84% of marketers agree that building customer trust will become marketing’s primary objective, and 82% agree that collaboration with customers will prevail over marketing. (1to1 Media survey April, 2008).

Top 10 Social shopping sites: (note I am only allowed to submit an article with 4 links)

  1. Kaboodle – http://www.kaboodle.com a great site, arguably market leader geared towards female consumers. Now owned by Hearst Digital Media.
  2. ThisNext – another strong site with an emphasis on female consumers, this site feels like a great window shopping experience with expert Maverns on tap
  3. Tribesmart – http://www.tribesmart.com this site is making use of twitter and Facebook connect. There are some great tools such as the personal list builder and community messaging features based on the ‘Tribes’ idea. Like Veedow, Wists and Crowdstorm it could appeal to both sexes and this is potentially where the gap in the market is as Kaboodle, OSOYOU and ThisNext seem to have marked out a claim on the younger female market.
  4. Veedow – a slightly confusing site, a neat idea, still yet to realize it’s full potential in my view
  5. Stylehive – feeling less like a pure play social shopping site these days, it has a strong emphasis on wannabe celebrity fashion/lifestyle writers who you follow – it is not as vibrant as twitter although you can see where they are going with it
  6. Jungle Raft – a new entrant, included as it is a new concept with a clear proposition in terms of pulling the best deals from Amazon
  7. Stylefeeder – offers to help users discover products based on their unique tastes. The looks a little off the pace and has some annoying and tacky pop up ads. All a bit old skool.
  8. Crowdstorm – the site is a Digg type site for products, it is based on buzz and an expert opinion network- although it does seem to have gone quiet in the last 12 months
  9. Shopstyle – feels like an ecommerce site with price discounts on display. Lacks obvious reviews or community features although the stylebooks feature is really nice enabling people to put looks together and share these – the ‘sale alert’ feature could be useful though and the site has hooked up with Elle magazine in the past.
  10. Wists – a trending site about what is new and what people plan on buying

There are many others, sites like Shopcorn and Naturalbornshoppers to name but two.