Who can you trust? This is how reviews work.

How and where matter most – the professor explains

At PriceSpy we see ratings and reviews as important for both our users and shops, and therefore, we let our users' reviews determine our Shop of the Year 2021 competition. Personal recommendations have helped people for many years and now the web is flooded with both praise and criticism. But which ones can you trust?

We used to get our buying tips from friends and acquaintances, but when the internet came along, it was a game-changer. Reviews of products and shops are available on many sites as it’s very effective marketing.

– What we generally have seen when we’ve done research is that those who buy something for the first time make the purchase according to recommendations, which was also most common before the internet, says Johan Anselmsson, professor of marketing at Lund University in Sweden.

A customer who has acted on a recommendation is also more loyal, studies show.

– Compared to an advertisement or a price campaign, a customer who has come to the site via a recommendation stays much longer.

Provided that the recommendation has been honest and the customer's expectations have been met, of course.

Johan Anselmsson, professor of marketing at Lund University in Sweden. Photo: Lunds universitet

Recommendations differ in quality

Regarding the quality of a recommendation, it’s mainly affected by the person and the situation. Johan explains:

– The original idea with "word-of-mouth", as recommendations are called in marketing, is that the sender is a person you trust, and it automatically becomes credible.

– The spontaneous recommendation is the strongest, you’ll then get completely unique tips. A recommendation you actively ask someone for is more secure: the person who provides the recommendation wants to give you security and value for money.

Compare, for example, "That restaurant has a completely crazy dessert you have to taste!" with "The bistro on the corner has a solid and not too expensive menu."

The motive matters

But on today's digital platforms, there are more forces that affect the recommendations, especially the motive. It’s not uncommon for a customer to be offered a benefit in exchange for a review.

– I myself have witnessed that a restaurant offered a dessert if you left a good online review, says Johan Anselmsson.

– But that’s what happens with systems - if they work too well, they will be abused.

There are extreme examples. Like the restaurant in Brixham that got top reviews on Tripadvisor but never existed. Or the Swedish restaurateur who was pressured for money to avoid getting a bottom rating from Google. He refused to pay and was overwhelmed with bad reviews. There are also review bots and companies that specialize in removing negative publicity about customers' brands.

Use your judgement

A little common sense and a critical eye are good to use everywhere online - particularly when it comes to reviews. This is especially true when something seems way too good to be true, or the opposite. Also check out the site that publishes the reviews and compare reviews from several places. Should you discover something suspicious, you can often report it to the site.

– Everyone who publishes reviews has a great responsibility towards both consumers and shops. For PriceSpy, it’s about credibility, says Pernilla Dahlqvist who is head of PriceSpy's compliance team.

PriceSpy sharpens the tools

Ahead of this year's edition of the Shop of the Year competition, we have renewed and improved our system for collecting reviews to make it even harder to cheat. PriceSpy has a number of monitoring functions that warn of suspicious activities and circumstances and send us information that we manually investigate further. If we discover a breach of the rules or something else that indicates that our service has been misused, we hide the reviews in question. 

– Fake reviews are also published on our site, it’s inevitable. But personally, I believe that PriceSpy is at the absolute top when it comes to detecting, investigating and removing fake reviews. This is seen, among other things, in the fact that the same reviews that we have confirmed to be fake are often left on other review services sites.

– My tip for those who don’t trust reviews is to not focus on positive reviews, as these are more often the ones that have been manipulated - but instead on a lack of negative reviews, which is almost impossible to fake, says Pernilla Dahlqvist.

– A negative opinion does not have to be bad either, it's all about how the company responds to the customer's opinion and helps to solve the problem!

Read more about how PriceSpy handles reviews.

Jessika Jellbom

25 September 2021

This article is written by Prisjakt’s editorial staff. No one else has influenced the content of it. There are no paid links or other types of advertising collaborations.