Internet Shoppers Do Their Research

MediaPost reports that nearly 70 percent of online shoppers read at least 4 reviews of a product before purchasing it, while almost a quarter of people check eight reviews or more — good news for anyone who writes all those Amazon reviews. Still, this statistic begs the question: do online shoppers necessarily read more reviews than offline shoppers?

Ben Brennan

When I'm buying stuff online I definitely read the reviews first, but if I'm buying something IRL I normally don't read reviews but normally I'm buying it because of word of mouth recommendations(although sometimes I buy things on a complete whim).


This page's article raises the question: what proportion of college-educated people misuse the term 'begging the question'?

Then again, if a term is used incorrectly most of the time, does the incorrect use become the accepted meaning? This obviously doesn't apply to misquoting Shakespeare, but rather to mondegreens and malaprops.


Personally, I won't make any kind of big ticket purchase without doing at least a little online research, especially any kind of electronics or appliances. I'd be willing to bet that most people look for reviews of that kind of thing too - it is a lot easier to decide on say, a refrigerator or a cell phone based on reviews than something more objective like clothing or books.

That said, the amount of "trust" I place in these reviews varies - websites where experts do the research like CNET or Consumer Reports or are much more valuable to me than user-generated reviews. That said, finding a ton of negative reviews will give me pause no matter what the source.


I read reviews (almost exclusively at for both online and offline shopping. To avoid the shills I pay more attention to the number of reviews and the star rating than to any given review. It's akin to Surowiecki's "Wisdom of Crowds". There can't be 1700 shills out there writing about Bluetooth headsets.


For most things online shopping offers a better experience. Clothes and shoes are the exception where fit and finish are easier to examine in person.
On the internet it is easy to do price comparison, find reviews, find coupons closeouts & discounts, compare similar items, find technical information, or find it for sale used.

In a retail environment you have to deal with elevator music(designed to hypnotize you into making impulse purchases), parking, checkout queues, sales drones, etc. The only information you can access about the product is the marketing blather on the box.

I think a killer cell phone app would be one where you could scan the UPC symbol and instantly have access to online product reviews, price comparisons etc.

B K Ray

WHile net reveiws do have a place on the scope, they are not as useful as people make them sound. I just purchased a flat screen television and while the picture is wonderful and the teleivision itself is nice, the digital experience is daunting. Not just the numbers that are being flung around right and left when it come to HDTV (contrast ratios, pixels per inch, screen size...) I had the hardest time trying to find what would be considered "Back office" info, like comparing different services, having or not having a tuner and so on.

I did find some sites that broke down what a lot of the terms were and how they hardly made a diffence in your experience since your providers do not have a minimum quality standard to deal with and so actual use will vary. Of course now I am like the freakin' town crier when I hear someone mention HDTV.

The things you really need to know are rarely in reviews because those things are not often found out for 6 months and the reviewer (even professional ones) may not recognize your context enough to be able to talk to you in a way that you understand about your own needs. They don't need to feel bad though, neither do the sales people.


Dave S.

I also often read the reviews before purchasing. BUT, man, I wonder how genuine an online, near-anonymous review is going to be? Negative reviews are probably more "real" than the glowing ones.


Here is an invitation for online shoppers.

Get your own Mall with more than 1000 stores. Many of them offers free shipping. You get rebates everytime you shop. Secure site. And you help raise funds for needed children all over the world.


I can't support this observation with any data, but during my 3-year tenure as a salesman at Circuit City (2002-05), only an infinitesimal minority of my customers had done any useful research prior to buying an expensive product.

Justin W

I research everything I buy -- online and in person -- although I do all of my reviewing online.

If I go out to buy something, it's because I've already looked online and read its reviews, and have decided the product is satisfactory.


Once upon a time, I only read reviews if I was buying online because, hey, there were right there! My initial response was "Well, I never read reviews if I'm buying something in a brick-and-mortar", but then I thought about it and realized I often hold off buying something in a brick and mortar now until I've read some online reviews first, particularly if I am buying a book, a movie, a CD, something of that sort. So now I have to wonder too if perhaps the rise of the internet review is affecting whether people read reviews before they buy something in a brick-and-mortar store.


I've been researching two high-ticket appliance purchases, and reading hundreds of online reviews -- and I've begun wondering: since there's zero authentication on any of the sites, how many of those reviews are written by shills?

I know I personally have made several dozen Amazon purchases, and only once have I been inspired to go back and post a product review.

Doug Nelson

Just try to find 1 offline review for most household products, let alone 4 or 8. It can't be done for many, especially those that aren't market leaders.

Another Black Swan

The amount of information available on the Internet today on anything that one might be contemplating buying (from product reviews -my personal favorite Boolean stream is to couple "sucks" with the brand or product- to product specific forums to blogs) is mind boggling to say the least. That said, I must admit that the net is fast becoming my medium of choice for information to help me make most buying decisions, whether I buy online or at bricks and mortar sites. If one has the intuition to spot the obvious shilling and the perseverance to sort the wheat from the chaff it is truly a "better way" to buy.

I believe it was Seth Godin who has championed this whole idea for quite some time now: that being that netizen or peer reviews are the best source of honest information. I think it works and will always work as long as it remains uncommercialized. But of course we all know that is not going to last for long.



I always read reviews online regardless of where I'm buying. Before I spend my hard earned and scarce funds, I want to be sure that it's a quality product. I try to read reviews from sources I trust, ones that go out to test products for the purpose of reviewing them. If it's not that type of product, I trust the people reviewing on Amazon.

My husband, on the other head, just assumes things are good products. He doesn't want to take the time to research before hand. That's why I do the shopping.


For as long as I remember there has been a magazine in Australia called Choice which every month studies about ten kinds of product - foods appliances, services, everything else. If you are every thinking of buying anything, chances are there will be an article in the last few years listing the pros & cons of the different options on the market.

Choice would have been one of the main sources of that kind of off-line review. Now of course Choice is online anyway, making research easier for anyone who wants to pay for it.


I generally just read the negative reviews. There are more than enough positive ones, and I have to worry about shills if I pay attention to them. If I find that people are only complaining about things which seem unpatterned (or that I wouldn't care about), then it should be a good buy. On the other hand, if multiple people from more than one site mention the same problem with an item, it's probably not a coincidence.

If I can't find anyone saying *anything* bad about it except maybe "not as high quality as the one that costs twice as much," like my shiny new Vizio, then I rush out and get it (or click 'buy') before it flies off the shelves! :)

Doug W

For big ticket items, whether I'm buying online or not, I'll read a ton of reviews, but I think a big part of why people read reviews more online is because you can't actually see a product, flip through it, see it, and verify for yourself whether it's actually crap or not.

So, by necessity, online shoppers, at least if they know what's good for them, HAVE to read more reviews. Plus, it's a bigger hassle to return stuff online. You have to pay shipping, package it, it's a pain, so there's more incentive to make sure you get it right the first time.

It's much easier to make unresearched impulse purchases at a brick & mortar than online. Although if you carry around something like an iPhone, you could pretty much research anything anywhere.

Rob Wallace

I believe that common sense dictates that online shoppers only evaluate several of the top 10 sites for whatever they are shopping for.

It's common sense really, look, compare prices, check a couple more sites and buy or don't. (All subjective general comments)

Any site below 14 is invisible to these price comparison and buyers.