This is why you can’t trust online user ratings

High online user ratings don’t actually mean you’re getting a quality product, reports The Harvard Business Review.

“The advent of online reviews has led some to argue that the power of brands and traditional marketing tactics is waning and consumers are making more informed and rational decisions”.

The truth of the matter is that these reviews are actually an “illusion of validity” rather than an accurate reflection of the product.

The biggest issue is the question of whether the review you are reading is actually from a legitimate consumer and not someone who was paid to manipulate or influence a products reviews.

Secondly, the reviews available are typically only representative of a small subset of users. “The average rating from this sample does not perfectly coincide with the average rating we would have obtained if all product users had left a review.”

Variability also tends to be high for multiple reasons, including random noise. A reviewer may rate the wrong product or leave a low rating due to a complaint about shipping, for instance, which has little to do with the product itself.

This leads to a case of the “highest highs and the lowest lows” as only those with extremely strong opinions leave reviews.

Finally there are issues with the evaluation of products themselves. Virtually no consumer has the means to measure the objective performance of a product using a scientific method.

That’s not to say that their opinion on a product is not valuable, but it skews reviews based on variables other than objective performance, including brand image, price, and physical appearance.

Do you trust online user reviews? Let us know in the comments below and in our forums.

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This is why you can’t trust online user ratings

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