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This Season's Shopping Tips & Understanding Product Reviews
According to Forbes Business, online shopping is about to explode. They report that Black Friday and Cyber Monday statistics released by the National Retail Foundation show online shopping up this year from 226 million last year to 247 million this year. It may not be for everyone, but hundreds of thousands of people are doing it. Why? It's easier to shop from the comfort of your home then it is to physically go to the store.
To increase traffic online retailers are experimenting with social media, expanding product offerings, adding in-store pick up, and offering free shipping. Even some grocery stores are offering drive-thru pick up or in-home delivery to make things easier for the consumer. Most online retailers are building relationships with their customers by staying connected and posting great deals.
The most popular websites today - namely Amazon and eBay - are accounting for the largest portion of online sales. Outside of that it's anybody's game. So who do you trust and how do you know you're making a sound purchase from a reputable company? There are several factors that make online shopping a secure experience.
Reputation and Trustworthiness
Make sure the company you're buying from is a reputable company. This is probably the reason Amazon and eBay are the top selling marketplaces today. Orders are pretty much guaranteed. Google gives online companies the stamp of approval when they've proven themselves secure, competent and trustworthy. Also, search the site you're buying from to ensure it's been secured.
Most secure sites are encrypted; however, just because it's encrypted doesn't mean it's safe. There are phishing sites that pretend to be online shops and use encryption to fool you into thinking they're legitimate when they're not. The Federal Trade Commission suggests only shopping sites with a secure browser. This is identified by the "lock" icon on the browser's status bar and the "https" in the URL address.
Shopping Via Mobile Devices
Most people today shop using their mobile device or tablet. All smartphone browsers have methods of telling you when you're connected to a secure website. Usually a padlock symbol will be displayed next to the website name. The iPhone Safari browser displays a green padlock symbol that means the site you're visiting is most likely a safe and secure one.
Also, make sure the device you're using has at least a 3G connection. Connecting to an unknown Wi-Fi network like the one in your local coffee shop and other public places can mislead you. These connections are often targeted by criminals who are out to steal your personal information.
Shop Early & Never Pay Full Price
The best deals happen in the wee hours of the morning. Online merchants are always changing their prices. Prices fluctuate online almost as much as they do at the pump. One day you're paying $4.00 a gallon for gas and the next it's $4.50. The best deals are usually posted in the morning so if you want an item at the best possible price, shopping early is the best way to go.
Also, make sure you're comparison shopping. Shop a variety of marketplaces so you can evaluate prices and find the best possible deal. Use online coupons to save even more on your purchases.
With the change in the season everyone's shopping for winter clothing, sporting equipment like skis and snowboards, and yes, Christmas gifts. Black Friday and Cyber Monday encourage a lot of people to buy electronics like TV's, computers, gaming devices, and cell phones.
Other common products include appliances like refrigerators, washers and dryers, microwave ovens, vacuum cleaners, portable heaters, dishwashers, and yes, air conditioners. These might be off season but they'll be useful during the summer months and are probably offered at a discounted rate.
When investing in high price items it's important to read product reviews. Although reviews can sometimes be inaccurate, they can also be helpful when making new purchases.
Understanding Product Reviews
First, be doubtful of the product review you're reading. Whether it's positive or negative, know that it's probably biased. For example, infrared heater reviews suggest they're unsafe, heat only small areas, and make better personal heaters than supplemental room heaters. This is not entirely true as some infrared heaters have fans in them that spread warmth around the room.
The same can be said of evaporative coolers. Ideal for arid environments, this cooler isn't going to work where humidity levels are high. Someone in Florida might purchase the cooler, expecting it to function well, and when it doesn't, they write a poor product review. This doesn't present the product in the proper light. Clearly, the cooler is not being used as it should be.
Check websites like GoodHousekeeping.com and Consumerreports.org for good reviews. These reviews are typically well rounded so you can make an informed decision. Also, read through product reviews on the site you're shopping. Make a list of questions and talk to a customer service representative so you can get a better idea of how the product works and if it is for you.
People have always been interested in other people opinions. That's why when you shop on Amazon you'll find loads of product reviews. People like to discuss and relate to each other through product reviews. It's important to be able to filter a reliable review from the unreliable ones.
The purpose of a review is to:
- Learn the pros and cons of the product
- Learn enough about the product to decide if it's right for you
- Find out what the quality of the product is and if it's easy to use
- Read about other product users' experiences
- Discover if the product is worth buying or not
A product review shouldn't be self-serving. Some people write reviews that they've never used before. If you're going to write a review then write it based on your personal knowledge of the product - in other words - you must have used the product to provide meaningful information. Try to be as honest as possible in your review, even if you have something negative to say. This strengthens your reliability as a product reviewer and makes you seem more honest and credible.
Factors to include in your review are:
- Specific Features: What does the product do and what was your experience with it?
- Objective: Who is the product made for and why would they want to use it
- Benefits: Discuss the benefits the product has to offer and how it can be used to improve lives
- Useful information: Discuss the price, customer service, shipping time etc.
There are pros and cons to every product. List them but do so honestly. For example, don't purchase software and then complain that it took too long to download to your computer. A legitimate complaint might be that it creates a desktop icon without asking.
How do companies filter the reviews?
Some companies only like to allow glowing reviews, and therefore, remove bad reviews from their site. Of course this depends on the legitimacy of the review. If it's misleading and scathing, it's understandable if a company wants to take it down. But if it is a credible product review, then it could be worth posting even if it's not exactly positive.
According to CNN Money, all positive reviews tend to raise the red flag among consumers. Furthermore, they indicate that 87% of consumers tend to write reviews when they have something positive to say and that even negative reviews can be beneficial. According to CNN, "reviews help build trust, retain customers, and are crucial to snagging first-timers."
'Tis the season for shopping, so why not follow a few helpful tips to make it a pleasant experience. They're bound to take the guesswork out of making a sound purchase.