It really hit me how much online reviews have pervaded our daily lives when I went shopping with my roommate for a new vaccuum cleaner. We were comparing vacuum cleaners, looking at the specs and prices, and then she pulled out her iPhone. She started looking up the Amazon reviews for the vaccuum that seemed to be the best deal. She checked out reviews across the spectrum: low, high, middle. That way, she was able to weigh complaints against glowing recommendations.
After she purchased the vacuum cleaner--decision based partially on the reviews--I started thinking about all the ways in which online reviews have changed us as consumers. Almost any site asks for online reviews. Even when I shop for clothing now, there's an option to read and leave customer reviews. They are absolutely everywhere--Overstock, library websites, recipe websites--everywhere you go. I'm browsing online for a slow cooker these days, and I find myself looking at the customer reviews before I look at the product descriptions.
And it doesn't stop at simply leaving a review. Amazon is a good example of taking the rating and reviewing experience above and beyond. You can join communities there to talk about books and other products, and you can create lists on which other consumers can vote among other things. You can vote on just about anything there come to think of it--helpfulness of reviews, product lists, etc.
I wonder how much all of this influences our purchasing decisions. I read a post in one of the Goodreads groups I belong to that stated the poster had taken a book off her to-be-read list because it had gotten such low reviews. In this era of massive amounts of user generated content, we are all gate keepers now I guess. Deciding the quality of a product is no longer left to the "professionals." Especially with the rise of self-publishing/the e-book phenomenon and other related things. For example, you have the e-book success stories like Amanda Hocking's which were based almost entirely on book blogs and various forms of online social media.
I'd like to think that I still form opinions for myself on which products to buy--books or otherwise--without paying much attention to reviews. However, I do find myself glancing at those reviews. And I can't say that they don't influence me at all.
How much would you say that reviews influence your purchasing decisions?