How can reviews improve your online shopping experiences?

Have you ever come across an online shopping deal that seems too good to be true? Instead of hitting click, it could pay off to do a bit of research first.

How do you know which websites are trustworthy? What are the warning signs of fraudulent online retailers? Here are our tips and tricks for navigating the world of online shopping with the help of Trustpilot reviews.

The basics:

  • Get a snapshot. On Trustpilot, look at the business's star rating and TrustScore - the higher the better. Also look at the percentages of excellent and great reviews versus poor and bad reviews.
  • Look at the total number of reviews. Aim to read 10-20 reviews to get an overall impression of a business. If a particular business only has a few reviews on Trustpilot, consider checking other online portals.
  • Read reviews thoroughly. The devil is in the details. See what people highlight as good or bad. Keep in mind that reviews are subjective - what one person sees as a problem may be an advantage to someone else!
  • Check the date of reviews. If reviews are more than a year old, the business could have changed hands or switched focus since then. For example, we’ve seen instances of online shops going out of business, only to have their web address bought and taken over by someone new. In some cases, the new owner of the website may not be as trustworthy as the original owner.
  • Do the business’s star rating and TrustScore on Trustpilot match its website? Unfortunately, a few businesses cheat and display a fake Trustpilot logo or incorrect star rating or TrustScore on their websites. We take action when we’re notified about this. But if you’re in doubt, check whether the details shown on Trustpilot match what’s on the business's website.

What else should you look at?

If you're unfamiliar with an online retailer, it's a good idea to check their website and other internet sources for warning signs. For example:

  • Is the language strange? Websites promoting fake stores or counterfeit goods are often created with the help of tools like Google Translate. If the text seems like a translation littered with mistakes, this should raise a red flag.
  • Does the website’s address (or URL) correspond to the type of product being sold? Fraudsters can buy up website addresses that used to belong to legitimate webshops that have gone out of business, and use these to create fake shops. If the website’s name or address is strange or inappropriate considering the products being offered for sale on the site, then this could indicate a fake online shop.
  • Are any contact details provided for the business? Do these fit with the other aspects of the site? Genuine webshops shouldn’t have anything to hide. But fake websites often have no contact details available, or list illegitimate phone numbers or addresses.
  • Other online research. Do a Google search and see if anyone else has written about the website. You can also find the registered owner of a website by going to sites like who.is and doing a search using the web address. If the results don’t add up, proceed with caution.
  • Use common sense and trust your instincts. Have you come across a deal that seems too good to be true? If so, chances are, it probably is.

What should you do if you've experienced fraud?

For serious cases, consider reporting the incident to the police, or contacting a local consumer protection organization. Consumer bodies can advise on consumer rights and sometimes help wronged online buyers recover their money.

Keep in mind that while we add alerts to company profiles to warn consumers if we've found evidence of fraud, Trustpilot is an online review community.

We're different to a consumer advocate body, complaints site, court or authority and as such, we don't have the same options for taking action.

What’s the bottom line?

Online review sites are a helpful resource that are best used together with other checks. And they should never replace common sense!