How do I Research a Product?

I’m often asked for recommendations for products, usually because I don’t have a problem finding and buying good products. I’m the guy, for example, who gets tasked with tracking down the ideal model when someone wants practically anything electrical. I don’t know more than anyone else, I’m not some all-knowing guru who picks a product based on your aura, I’m just savvy when it comes to using the net.

So, to help others, here’s pretty much my methodology:

  1. First stop, Google. Type in something like reviews where is the thing you want, e.g. laptop, or fridge, or oven gloves. You’ll be surprised how much has already been reviewed out there. No matter what you want, someone, somewhere will probably have compared products or written suggestions. If you’re having trouble with reviews, try tests, group test, suggestions, etc.

    Now look through the results, if you can, find a non-store site with reviews (online magazines, personal recommendations). I personally like to try and find online versions of print magazines, the reviews tend to be broader and more consistent. For some topics you may not have that luxury. I’m also a fan of personal recommendations.

    If you don’t know your product have a read up on features and terminology. Stores with customer reviews can be useful, but take reviews from people who have only owned the product a week with a pinch of salt. If you come across somewhere with tons of reviews (which is common on sites like Amazon), especially if they’re all positive, look for the longer, more in-depth reviews and also take a look at the negative reviews (there’s always some) to see if there is consistency and to see if what they’re griping about holds weight (sometimes it’s simple things like not including a cable, hardly a criminal offence). It takes a lot of effort to bother reviewing something, which usually means the person is either very happy or very not happy.

  2. Take a look through all the reviews, you’ll probably find the same products coming up time and again, along with mentions of the most common features and any nice ones that are missing or stand out. Make a note of the makes and models that fit the bill or any features you think you need.
  3. You should now have a short list of a couple of brands/models you want to explore. Back to Google and do a specific search for that product, add ‘review’ to the end to try and get more reviews. Do this for each one.
  4. Once you’re happy you’ve found the product you want, it’s time to hunt down the best prices.

    One place to use is Google’s product search (these seems to have been renamed from Froogle), basically, go to Google, click the link marked Products just above the search box and put your product name in. You should get back a series of results that can be sorted on price, along with which store it’s in and maybe an idea of the store via a star rating.

    Another place I use is Kelkoo.co.uk, I’ve found this better than most of the other price comparison sites.

    I also have a few standard stores I trust and know provide good prices, Amazon, which is obviously far more than a book store now and which is rapidly turning into a supermarket online, Ebuyer, Dabs and Play.com, to name a few.

If you find them at a good price from a company you’ve heard of, then you can probably just wade on in, though it’s worth checking somewhere like Quidco to see if you can get any more money off.

Personally, I’d say that if there’s a big company you’ve heard of that has the product, but it’s slightly more expensive, go with them (within reason, obviously). It can save a lot of hassle in the long run. If you’re buying from a site for the first time, don’t forget to check out my advice on Checking Up on an Online Retailer and Things to Check When Buying Online.