CHENNAI: It’s Friday night, you’re at a really fun bar and the bathroom line is needlessly long. Like 12 people long. Some staring at their phone, some glancing at the dance floor wistfully, and some finding it difficult to hold themselves up. The woman in front of you has the most beautiful lipstick. It’s a wonderful shade of red that almost looks pinkish under the strobe lights. It’s not matte, but it’s not shiny either. Is it Ruby Red? You don’t know, but you must ask.
So you do, and the evening takes a natural progression. Chatter about lipstick turns into chatter about life. You were looking for something, someone else discovered it, and you found that person. You found your special person. And just like that, you may never see her again, but a drunken Amazon lipstick purchase will always take you back.
In a parallel universe, a virtual world, you find out that the girl you just became friends with is only an influencer seeded there to tug at your beauty-curious mind. Or an algorithm that sings praises to any human woman between the ages of 25 to 36 with an above average annual income in Central India.
We live in a time where customer reviews make or break purchases, reading online reviews often feels like sifting through constant minefields. “Holy Grail!”
“This product changed my life!” “You need to use this!” With several brands and marketing agencies moving towards the dangerous trend of fraudulent paid reviews, it’s hard to find out what’s real and what’s not. The behaviour isn’t surprising if you consider the stakes involved: the scale of the global beauty industry is booming ($800 billion by 2023), and how about 77% of all shoppers read reviews of products before they purchase — a lot of money is on the line. And brand’s aren’t willing to leave it all to a shot of good luck.
If reviews move products, how do you know if you’re being manipulated by fake reviews into buying something substandard, or even harmful to your health? Let’s begin with the girl you met in the bathroom line. Trust her. Don’t overlook the sheer power of word of mouth. Stick to brands you know, and trust recommendations from your peer group who have actually spent their money on a product and used it.
If you are sifting through the world of murky online reviews, look out for specific language and words being repeated. If a lot of them sound the same, it’s a dead giveaway that a brief or script of some kind was shared and they were told to alter a few things here and there. Another red flag is if your glowing review is full of keywords: basically be wary of anything that sounds like a press release.
Take notes of when each review was posted. If a product has 10 reviews on one day and jumps to 500 the next, there is something wrong. This can feel a little like the Wild West sometimes, but the truth is: as long as reviews exist, brands will push to get good ones. Buy sample size products before making the plunge, don’t trust everything you read on the Internet, and be better. We deserve better.
Saumya R Chawla
Beauty behaviour with a side of dessert