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Smart Shopping: How to write the perfect product review

A step-by-step guide to crafting engaging product reviews that customers will find helpful.

We’ve all been there, stuck on a decision about whether to buy a particular model of coffee maker or garden hose, unsure of the relative benefits of one electronic gadget over another, or worried about spending money on an unfamiliar brand. The official product description can only tell you part of the story. If you’re like most consumers, you go straight to the product reviews for help.

With the explosive growth of ecommerce over the last decade, online product reviews have proliferated in the billions. They’re a vital resource for the nearly 95% of all shoppers who now read reviews before making a purchase. But as you’ve no doubt discovered, not all product reviews are created equal.

Nearly half of all internet users post online reviews every month, whether it’s a restaurant, hotel, store, or product. And many customers are driven to post only when they have extremely positive or negative experiences. Veteran shoppers are savvy about weighing the outliers at the extreme ends of the spectrum against the consensus — and sniffing out any suspiciously glowing praise or uncommonly bitter haters.

To write a truly helpful review that rises above the noise, the two most important factors to keep in mind are authenticity and tone.

Establish credibility by doing the research

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A great product review hinges on genuine knowledge of the product, and that all starts with research. It may seem obvious, but to demonstrate that your review is reliable, it’s necessary to obtain and use the product thoroughly before writing. Familiarize yourself with the product details and information provided by the manufacturer, as well as any common concerns or observations made in previous reviews. And when possible, learn about competing products on the market so you can compare them.

As you evaluate the product, you’ll be able to compare your real-life experience with established expectations. At the same time, you should think about what your readers want to know, including common questions about quality, design, ease of use, intended audience, and value for money.

Describe the product clearly

When you’re ready to write, clarity is king. With a concise introduction, provide a straightforward description of the product’s functionality and benefits. Explain any features or details that will help consumers who are new to the product learn the basics, without simply repeating what’s already in the manufacturer’s material. But also keep in mind that many experienced consumers will read reviews for solutions to problems or deeper knowledge about something they already own.

It always helps to offer vital information like brand name, specific model number, materials, and measurements. And adding a photo or video of your interaction with the product can go a long way in demonstrating credibility.

Strike the right balance and tone

When you’ve done the research and laid out the facts, it’s time for the most crucial ingredient: rendering judgment. Keep in mind that voice matters. Readers need to know that you’re a real person with an opinion they should listen to, so it’s always best to write in first person. Establish a trustworthy, friendly tone that’s constructive and civil, and focus on your personal experience with the product. When writing, the quality and originality of your words matter more than the length of the review.

Even if you passionately love — or hate — a product, try to avoid over-the-top language. Most readers are looking for an unbiased take, and they tend to skip past reviews that seem egregiously effusive or critical. The best reviews offer balance. Be as honest and specific as you can. Whenever appropriate, explore the pros and cons of a product, compare and contrast features to similar products, and explain how you arrived at your judgments. Share any measurements or evidence that illustrate how a product measures up in its category, and let readers know if a product has evolved from a previous model or release.

Even if your review is overwhelmingly positive, the information becomes more useful when a reader knows why you’ve come to your conclusion. For many potential shoppers, you are providing a valuable point of reference before they decide to make a purchase, big or small. In a few sentences, close with a strong conclusion that summarizes the merits or downsides you’ve fleshed out, then leave them with a clear sense of how the product lives up to expectations — and whether or not you’d recommend it. And before you hit submit, don’t forget to proofread for typos and clarity.

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