Over 20 brands of earbuds stare back at you from your internet search. The price range is deep and you want to make sure you spend your hard-earned money on the right pair. How do you decide?
You can check out the feed of your favorite Instagram influencer or maybe scroll through your Facebook timeline because undoubtedly earbud ads and deals will now pop up there since you’ve searched the topic.
Like it or not, social media has changed how we shop. We can be persuaded by Insta-celebrities who tell us what they eat, wear and use each day for perks from those companies. Various social media platforms can convince us we need the item we were just casually looking at the other day while surfing.
By the numbers
Those posts can have a huge impact on buying decisions, and consumers know it. According to a survey of 1,000 people by Blue Fountain Media, some 75% of social media users think there are too many ads on their social media feeds. Yet, 65% appreciate social media ads for showing them products they’re interested in, which they wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Over half said they have purchased an item based on a celebrity or influencer opinion, including 8% who had no interest in the product to begin with.
However, none of this changes the fact that you often need or want to buy something, but don’t know how, exactly, to get the most for the money you’re going to spend. The larger the purchase, the more you want to know about the options — price, features, performance and long-term value.
Beyond seeking advice from friends and family, the obvious place to research future purchases is online. Where all those ads live.
Relax, you have options
The product’s website can (or should) give you basic, factual information about what it is and what it’s supposed to do for you, but obviously has an agenda to drive sales.
Customer reviews left on Amazon and other sellers’ sites can be helpful, but it’s difficult to pick out the fakes, and some studies have found those posted by actual users can still be skewed by factors not related to the product’s quality.
There are some online destinations which do offer independent, objective reviews of products from people who have tested them and/or have at least some expertise in the subject area.
The gold standard for review sites trying to avoid any potential conflicts of interest between users and sellers is the granddaddy, Consumer Reports. The nonprofit maintains its own testing facilities or partners with other consumer advocacy, media or educational organizations.
Its website does have free content about consumer advocacy and health issues, while digital subscriptions starting at $10/mo. give access to product reviews and ratings. Like the magazine from which it sprouted, it does not accept any kind of advertisement.
Best non-subscription alternatives
If you’re like most users and aren’t inclined or able to pay for this level of independence in expert product reviews, there are other websites that aren’t subscription-based. Most make money from ads, commissions from “affiliate links” to sellers or some combination of the two.
They generally state the measures they take to avoid conflicts of interest between reviews and revenue, such as not telling writers which product reviews will include links that bring in commissions.
Some of these sites post lists of the “best” products in a given category, rather than make in-depth reviews on a specific product easy to find, which can make it more difficult when you want details on products that don’t make the cut.
- CNET — The majority of expert review sites out there focus on all things electronic, and this is probably the biggest and best. It includes extensive reports from qualified reviewers for computers, smartphones, audio and video systems, cameras and drones, plus the increasingly tech-driven automobile and appliance sectors.
- Good Housekeeping — In keeping with the legacy of the magazine, it has a team of scientists, engineers and product experts to weigh in on beauty and baby products, appliances and clothing, along with electronics and travel products. It still awards its warranty-backed “seals of approval,” including specialized ones for “green” products and nutritionist-approved.
- Edmunds — Vehicle purchases probably weigh the most on our minds, and most generalist websites don’t get involved with rating cars. Edmunds is another one of those brands that’s been around forever with its “blue book,” and that experience carries over into a deep-dive of a site, with “best” lists, in-depth reviews of a huge range of automobiles and archives going back decades.
- Reviews.com — Called a “Guide to the best services,” reviews.com provides research on products in industries such as insurance, home products, digital services and finance. Quick housekeeping note: Reviews.com is owned and operated by an affiliate of Allconnect. However, Allconnect is not involved in or responsible for the production of Reviews.com content.
- Best Products — Owned by the same company as Good Housekeeping, this one has a team of editors who have researched, tested and interviewed other experts about 65,000 different products, covering a wider array of areas than its corporate sister.
- Allconnect.com — Yes, we’re name-checking ourselves here, but with good reason. The internet and TV world is confusing. We help you compare providers and plans available in your area, for free. Looking for information on the internet speed you need? We’re there for you in our Resource Center. Want to compare Netflix and Amazon Prime? We got you.
Social media gives a dizzying array of options for your purchases, no matter how small. Websites with expert reviews can help you focus and ensure you get the most bang for your buck. And if you need more tips for making smart purchases, check out our online shopping guide.
Photo image credit: Apple