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Product Review Challenges – What Consumers Need to Know

Activism > Consumer Defense | Effective Living

Summary. Consumers face many challenges when trying to research products and make purchasing decisions. This document provides an overview of these challenges and offers some suggestions.

  • Aggregate Reviews Needed. Most reviews are done by individuals testing a single unit. It would be more accurate to have information about a large number of units tested by many people. For example, if one very vocal reviewer like Walt Mossberg gets a defective unit, while 100 little known YouTube vloggers get 99 functioning units, the public perception will be that the product is bad, even though there is just a 1% failure rate, because reviews by mainstream media journalists influence more people.
  • Differing Model Numbers. Some products are available in so many different model numbers that it’s hard to find a review for the specific one you can find at your local store. Computers are a good example. Some computer manufacturers will change model numbers depending on who is selling the product. So, the model available at Best Buy could be different than the one sold at Staples. Fitness equipment is another product line that is sometimes sold exclusively to certain outlets. So, a certain model ProForm elliptical machine sold at Sears might not be available anywhere else. Similar products may be reviewed by Consumer reports, but the differences are significant between models.
  • Fake Comments and Product Reviews. The Internet is full of fake comments and product reviews. Some companies pay people to write good reviews of their own products and negative reviews of their competitor products. Consumers have trouble knowing what reviews are genuine and which ones are paid. Learn more by reading our document on Internet Authenticity and Accountability of Advertising Reviews and Content.
  • Long-Term Usage and Durability Reviews Needed. There are many feature reviews available that describe what a product can do. However, these feature reviews are usually done over a short period of time. A person could simply visit a product page on the manufacturer’s website to find the information presented in most product reviews. What’s needed are long-term real-world evaluations of products to test reliability (does it work all the time) and durability (is it sturdy).
  • Personal Preference. The usefulness and value of many products is widely dependent upon personal preference. Skechers Shape-Ups shoes are a good example of this. Some people love them, while others hate them. It’s a matter of personal preference. It’s hard for many reviewers to offer a balanced unbiased presentation of products in a way that takes into consideration the diverse preferences and needs of consumers. A quality review is more than just one person’s opinion of a product. It should be more like a journalist impartially reporting on a product.
  • Short Product Life Cycles. Products typically have a one year life cycle. So, most reviews are about products that simply aren’t available anymore, or will soon be replaced by a new model. Rather than reviewing specific product models, it’s more meaningful to have a review that looks at a product line if possible.
  • User Error. Products should be designed to reduce user confusion or damage from misuse. However, this isn’t always possible. Many negative reviews are the result of user error.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com