Online shopping has become the easiest way to get anything you can think of. With the ability to shop from an Instagram feed and marketplaces that will even stock your pantry, your dream purchases appear so fast, it feels like magic! And while that makes getting what you want a total breeze, a recent study advises that you might want to think twice before you click purchase on your next must-have item. Read on to learn how to shop smarter.


The study, published by the University of Colorado Boulder in the Journal of Consumer Research, examined user ratings for 1,272 different products across 120 categories, which included sunscreen, bike helmets, car seats and more. Interestingly, findings showed a super low correspondence between average user ratings of products on and product ratings that were based JUST on objective tests.


“The likelihood that an item with a higher user rating performs objectively better than an item with a lower user rating is only 57 percent,” said Bart de Langhe, author of the study and professor of marketing at CU-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. “A correspondence of 50 percent would be random, so user ratings provide very little insight about objective product performance.”

Philip Fernbach and Donald Liechtenstein, professors of marketing at the Leeds School who co-authored the study, also researched what info consumers rely on when judging the quality of products on According to their paper, shoppers actually do rely on the average user rating per product — which happens to be showcased front and center.

Even more, it turns out that ratings can create a bit of an illusion for shoppers who don’t do their research or take the time to read customer reviews. De Langhe explained, “Oftentimes, there are just not enough ratings for a product, or there is too much disagreement among reviewers. In this case, consumers should not trust the average very much, but they do nonetheless.”


So basically, if you’re going to shop based on ratings, do yourself a favor to check and see that there are enough of them to prove that the high rating is totally legit — and read the testimonials as best you can! You should be able to glean some shopping smarts and helpful hints, which will help avoid buyer’s regret.

Have you been disappointed by an item you recently bought online? Tell us what happened on Twitter @BritandCo!

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