For every product that I buy, I will spend between 15 minutes and an hour reading online reviews. Whether it’s for a bag, a TV, a pair of sunglasses, a security camera or sunscreen, I go down the review rabbit hole looking for reasons to buy or not to buy. I look for written reviews on the seller site, read blogs, search through real life product images, and watch videos. I check multiple sources and weigh the good versus the bad before making a decision.
And I’m not alone. While most people would buy a toothbrush or notebook without reading reviews, not many people would invest in a new product costing more than $25 without doing some research.
Just like any other product, connected devices are reviewed every day and consumers rely on those reviews to make the choice to purchase the product, to go with a competitor’s or that they don’t need it after all.
As I add more and more WiFi products into my home, I'm increasingly aware of the differences between installation experiences, how they behave on my home network, and the reconnection process. I've also learned that having older Wi-Fi technology can adversely affect the performance of many devices on my network.
Many product reviewers only vaguely cover a WiFi product’s OOBE and setup process, preferring to jump to the ‘meat’ of the product functionalities. We also need to keep in mind that product reviewers are generally early adopters who have more technical experience and have played around with more products than the Average Joe, so their perception of the difficulty of product setup might be skewed. For these reasons, I propose a few criteria that WiFi product reviewers should focus on in their write-ups to help mainstream consumers get a full picture of the product they are considering.
Setup is the first, critical piece of a connected product’s lifecycle. Product reviewers should pay special attention to the setup process of a connected product because 20% of users fail when trying to get a Smart Home device setup.
How can a reviewer explain the setup process of a connected product in a way that is useful to consumers? The first step is to describe the tools that are used for setup.
- Do you need to download an app for setup? If the product is managed with an app, it is as important or more to review the app than the product’s hardware.
- Do you setup via a screen on the product? Perhaps the product setup is conducted on the device itself. Do you also manage lifecycle issues through the product screen?
- Do you use a remote control? Is there another piece of hardware that the customer needs to keep track of in addition to the product itself? Is the remote easy to navigate and does it allow for simple onboarding?
- Do you onboard via voice control? Did it work smoothly? Were the commands easy to figure out and did the product understand you?
If there are multiple ways to setup the connected product, the reviewer should test the different methods thoroughly. To go above and beyond, the reviewer could test the product onboarding in different environments and scenarios to provide a thorough review as not all the product users will have the same arrangement as the reviewer.
A great product reviewer will test the WiFi product over time. Many products (like printers) can fall off of the network easily. It’s important to get a sense of the reliability of the connectivity of a Wi-Fi connected product.
- If the connected product does fall off Wi-Fi, does it reconnect automatically? Or do you have to manually reconnect it?
- Does the product work when multiple products are connected to your home network?
- Can it be moved to a different location with no connectivity issues?
A connected product’s lifecycle doesn’t end at setup. And 25% of negative online reviews of connected products are related to their connectivity. This is a huge problem and any solid product review needs to test and cover this in depth.
An often overlooked topic for smart home device reviewers is the specifications of the wireless technology used in the product. Although less important for the mainstream consumer, the implications of the technology choices that the product company made will affect the customer experience and is important to investigate.
- If the device is cordless, is power saving technology employed? Implication for customer: Am I going to have to continuously charge my product or will the battery last awhile?
- Is the latest Wi-Fi standard used or is it outdated? Implication for customer: Am I going to have any issues using the product with my internet service or with other products?
- Does it have advanced antenna technology for longer range? Implication for customer: Can I take my Wi-Fi product to any place in the house or backyard and not lose connectivity?
As connected products and broadband service innovate, we will need to add to and evolve this guide. But the above topics must be covered in order for end consumers to understand what they are getting into when buying a connected product. Although the product features are generally what the marketing departments at product companies will highlight, the customer experience with the product is deeply affected by their experience with setup and connectivity. 40% of all current negative reviews pertain to setup and connectivity- it’s a real problem and professional product reviewers need to cover it.
Ensure that your product reviews are helping consumers make educated decisions on what WiFi products to purchase; don't skimp on information on setup, connectivity or Wi-Fi technology employed.