Identifying & Evaluating Sources of Consumer Information

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, learn about different sources of information that consumers use, like reports, reviews, media, and government agencies. Explore the data you can find on a product. Also, learn to identify the most economical option.

Sources of Consumer Information

Think about the last time you went shopping. Did you go for the most economical product or did you get your favorite brand without minding the price?

We often compare several products before deciding which one to buy. Consumers usually look for quality and the best price, but many are willing to pay a little extra to get a brand they are familiar with.

You often choose between different brands of the same product

Several sources of information help consumers to learn more about a product and decide between competing brands. This data is known as consumer information.

Consumer Reports and Reviews

We often decide to buy a product based on recommendations. Opinions often influence buying behavior. You could decide to try a new restaurant because a friend said it is great or you might try a new hair product that has wonderful reviews.

We can get reviews directly from people and also from specialized magazines, like Consumer Reports. They are usually reliable sources of information.

The internet is full of consumer reviews as well. There are several websites specializing in reports and many shopping sites (like Amazon or eBay) include buyers' opinions for most products. However, it is wise to use these sources with caution. They sometimes provide biased opinions and some companies pay people to post positive comments about them.

Many websites allow you to rate and review products
Bad review

Advertising and Media

Each day, we see a lot of advertising. It is everywhere, on the news, social media, street signs, and television. Advertising is often the reason we learn about the existence of certain products and we become interested in them. Not rarely, we end up buying them.

Companies are aware of the impact of advertising on buying behavior. Therefore, they are willing to spend money on publicity and media because it brings them customers. The more often someone hears about a product or sees it, the more likely he or she is to buy it.

Take cola drinks, for example. You know there are two big brands because they advertise everywhere. There might be others, perhaps with better features or price, but you may not know about them; you are more likely to get the ones you know.

Advertising and media are good for familiarizing with products and learning about their features and advantages. However, companies are unlikely to tell you the disadvantages (unless required by law, like with drugs or tobacco). Therefore, you should look for additional information from third parties, like consumer reviews or reports from specialized agencies.

Government Agencies and Product Testing Organizations

Several governments have agencies specialized in the protection of consumers. They define quality standards for products and test them to certify compliance. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets the standards for food products and medicines.

In China, products complying with local quality standards receive the China Compulsory Certification
CCC Seal

There are also private organizations that test products and provide valuable information about their features, quality, and risks. Some organizations work for governments or as independent parties. These agencies and organizations inform consumers about issues they find with certain products and might test products based on consumers' concerns.

Making Wise Decisions

There are often several brands of the same product. You might have read reviews about one or heard about the other. However, at this point, you might compare them to make the final decision. The product packaging and the display can give you valuable information.

Information on the Product

The package will usually list the ingredients, so you can determine if it is made of natural products or if it has more chemicals. For food products, you can also find nutrition facts, which can help you, for example, choose products with less fat or sodium. The package usually informs about allergen ingredients and whether or not the product is free of artificial flavors, colors, saturated fats, or potentially harmful ingredients.

Nutrition facts label approved by the FDA
Nutrition facts label

The place of origin is also labeled on most products. Many local brands highlight this because a growing number of consumers support local producers. They are willing to pay more as long as the product comes from nearby.

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