Word of mouth can be the best way to get recommendations. But when it comes to buying online, be careful. A new study says don't believe every review you read.
The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, says there's a major disconnect between how useful online ratings really are, and the weight we give them when judging quality.
Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder looked at ratings for more than 1,200 products in 120 categories, such as car seats, bike helmets, sunblock, and smoke alarms -- all bought on Amazon.
The data found almost no relationship between the average user rating, and the rating from an objective test. In other words, there's no real guarantee a product is any better just because it got a high user rating.
So what can you do to avoid being fooled? Always check how many people reviewed the product. The smaller the sample size, the less likely you are to get a trustworthy review.
Researchers also found shoppers usually give higher ratings to more expensive products, or popular brand names by default, which means good marketing can throw off online reviews.