Over the past decade there has been a significant uptick in online sales. COVID-19 only exacerbated this movement, making products even more accessible at the click of a single button. Online purchasing has never been easier, and it seems that consumers are willing to part ways with the in-person buying experience. But perhaps buyers should be more skeptical, or at least cautious, with sight unseen, click-and-buy purchases. This Article provides four tips to ensure that the product you click is the product you get.
1. Know Where You “Landed”
If you are visiting a website, make sure you have landed where you intended. Sometimes, even the slightest error in spelling or name variation can land you at a doppelganger website. This is the result of domain name squatting. Often, domain name squatters register slight variations of authentic domain names to divert traffic or confuse consumers. Sometimes, the only variation is the top-level domain name (e.g., “.com” versus “.net”). Ideally, companies have protected you by redirecting domain names with slight variations such as common misspellings to their authentic page. But that is not always the case, so it is important to ensure you land where you intended.
2. Don’t Roll the Dice on the Seller
Have you ever attempted to re-order a product, just to find that the two products are completely different? Here’s why. Products sold on marketplaces are often sorted based on an Identification Number. Each Identification Number is correlated to a specific type of product. Sellers that want to sell that type of product must do so under the appropriate Identification Number. Each Identification Number has its own product page with images and description. Products under a single Identification Number are grouped together, regardless of the seller. Therefore, when you add a product to your cart you essentially roll the dice on which Seller’s product you will receive. One way to prevent this is to look at which seller currently has the “Buy Box.” This will allow you to determine which seller is fulfilling orders for the product on that day. However, because the image and description for all products under a single Identification Number are the same, there is no guarantee that the product you receive will be the product shown. But, by at least knowing and selecting which seller to buy from, you ensure that the product you purchased on Monday, is the same as one purchased on Tuesday.
3. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★: What It Really Means
If you’ve ever been on the fence between two products and checked the reviews to tip the scale one way or another, you may have been better off flipping a coin. Many product reviews on online platforms are fake or commissioned by the seller. Often, it appears as if a real consumer has left the review, but in reality, the “consumer reviews” are fictitious profiles used by the companies that sellers hire in an effort to boost their ratings. Some indications that a review may be fake include overgeneralizations, lack of detail, reference to inapplicable features, or unexplained gloating. In response to the ever-growing number of fake reviews, services that help consumers determine whether the reviews are legitimate are being developed. Consider using these services before adding the “five star” product to your cart.
4. Know Your Price: Too Good to Be True
Bargain hunters love a good deal, but sometimes a deal is, in fact, too good to be true. Products offered at a steep discount are often the result of either “passing off” or counterfeiting. When a seller “passes off” their product as that of a recognized brand, they include the brand name in the product name or description in hopes that the consumer mistakes their listing for an authentic one. And, often the brand they seek to associate with doesn’t even sell through that online marketplace. When a seller offers counterfeit products, their goal is to make the product look nearly identical to an authentic product. While counterfeiters don’t always use a brand name, they rely on consumers visual expectations and the defining features of a product in order to deceive. Consumers should anticipate the price of products and verify the platforms that specific brands sell on. To further avoid these traps, consumers should be skeptical of prices that seem too good to be true – because often behind a bargain is an inauthentic product.