4 Qualities of Effective Product Recommendations

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Ideas and Strategies for Real-Time Personalization
4 Qualities of Effective Product Recommendations

September 10, 2015 by

It’s no secret that consumers are interested in personalized shopping experiences. A recent report from Invesp Consulting found that 59% of online shoppers believe that it is easier to find more interesting products when recommendations are personalized. The kicker? The same study found that 61% of online marketers understand the importance of personalizing online shopping, but 51% are not sure how to implement it.

This dichotomy introduces a big area of opportunity: retailers with strong product recommendation strategies will position themselves to win over more customers. Technology will be an important part of the mix, but it’s equally important to take a step back to understand the strategy and tactics. What are the qualities of the most successful product recommendation tools? Here are 4 qualities that transform recommendation strategies from status quo to competitive.

Intent-driven analysis

E-commerce stores collect a wealth of browsing and transaction data. These signals represent customer interest and can be used to inform recommendations for future purchases. In addition to showing customers products that they’ve browsed in the past, e-commerce leaders should analyze the story behind the story and understand why shoppers find these products valuable or interesting?  For example, knowing how long a consumer spends on particular products, brands, styles or categories helps you uncover true interest and buying intent.

This intent-driven analysis layer can help create more effective product recommendations. In addition to understanding the “what,” you’ll have a strong understanding of the “why” knowledge that opens doors for more (and more relevant) products to recommend.

Social optimization

Consumers love to window shop but are also time-strapped; they love being introduced to new products but want vetted recommendations that are tailored to them. This balance is tough to strike, as retailers may feel like they’re stuck in a perpetual guessing game. One way to bridge this gap? Incorporate social recommendations.

Study after study shows that consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of marketing. Your technology will be more effective when emulating these real-world patterns, and thanks to social media or socially enhanced shopping, you have the data you need to accomplish this goal algorithmically. Think about it from the perspective of your customer: it’s fun to see what friends, family members or other like-minded people are buying and enjoying. Why not implement technology that makes this process easier?

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Off-site targeting

The internet is vast, and at any given time, consumers have an infinite number of websites to browse. It’s easy to forget the products that they’ve viewed on your site, no matter how compelling your offers may be. People are busy.

One way to tackle this challenge is to leverage technologies that allow you to target your customers on other platforms. Popular ad networks include Facebook Custom Audiences, Criteo, and Google Display Network, where you can upload first-party data to reach your audiences on different websites.

Your most loyal customers are interested in learning about your products, so why not make the process easier on them? Cross-platform targeting opportunities can help you reach your most engaged audiences, in-the-moment, on sites that they’re already browsing and enjoying. Position your ad campaign as a ‘friendly reminder,’ and you’ll be viewed as the polar opposite of annoying.

An integrated experience

At any given time, you’re employing multiple concurrent marketing channels. Be sure to optimize these channels with relevant and consistent product recommendations?

A recent article from eMarketer emphasizes that cross-sells and upsells have become so ubiquitous in e-commerce that even relevant suggestions may seem like noise to consumers. One way to counterbalance this trend is to deliver an integrated experience to your audiences. Pick one product recommendation concept, and reinforce it across the website, mobile app, email, social, and any other channel that you’re using to drive traffic.

Next generation product recommendations balance data and discovery. An integrated experience is at the center of this experience.

Final thoughts
One way to make your product recommendation strategy even stronger is to actually share the thinking behind your approach. Provide transparency into how products are chosen for each consumer -- shoppers will appreciate the thoughtfulness and insight into your experience-building strategies. Remember that product recommendations are about relationships, not just sales. With this approach, you’ll take the selling out of upselling and cross-selling. The end result? You’ll add more value to your customers and fuel more transactions along the way.

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