Ninety percent of consumers say that they read online user reviews before they make buying decisions, and why not? What could be more helpful than the opinion of millions of Americans about the products and services they’ve tried?
But what sounds great in theory seems a lot less valuable in reality, Consumer Reports warns. That’s because the trustworthiness of user reviews is increasingly being called into question.
Good reviews can boost sales and profits; negative ones can do just the opposite. A one-star increase in user ratings on Yelp, for example, can boost revenues by 5 to 9 percent for a restaurant, according to a 2011 Harvard Business Review study. A similar jump on Travelocity and TripAdvisor can push a hotel’s room rates up 11 percent, Cornell University researchers say. That gives unscrupulous advertisers, businesses and reviewers all the financial motive they need to game the system. Those fabrications “are the 21st century’s version of false advertising,” says Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general.
Given that reality, how can you wisely tap this often-useful information? Consumer Reports offers this advice:
— B…………………continues on Hartford Courant