The Why and How of Product Recommendations

We all know that product recommendations can help eCommerce sites generate more sales, but what is it about them that helps buyers to make extra purchases and how does understanding this help you maximise their effect?

Recommendations and Customers

By offering your customers product recommendations you are in effect giving them a personalised experience and studies have shown that at least 59% of customers will admit to being influenced by personalisation on websites.

In reality may more are being influenced, but may not be aware or willing to admit it.

So what do we really mean by the term influence in this context?

When customers talk about influenced by product recommendations are first thought is always that they made an extra purchase, but that isn’t always the result. Some people might make a recommendation to a friend from a product recommendation or return at a later date to make an additional purchase based on the recommendations.

So while the final result will be an additional sale this may not always happen instantly. As a result retailers should be prepared to assess the success of product recommendations over a longer period and take into account engagement activity as well as physical sales.

Recommendations that Thinking Ahead

So who really are receptive to product recommendations, is it those loyal regular customers or the new impulse purchaser?

The answer is that any customer can be influenced by product recommendations, but the key is to offer the right products at the right time.

The best recommendations work by thinking those few steps ahead of the customer. For example a customer buying a child’s electronic toy may well need batteries and wrapping paper or a customer buying a dress might want accessories to match.

recommended products

By using the data collected so far on the customers journey and the retailers own product knowledge eCommerce sites can offer more tailored and appealing product recommendations.

Balanced Approach

While as a marketer I often warn eCommerce retailers about creating too many distractions on product pages when it comes to product recommendations offering too few can just look rather lost.

If you treat the recommendations as an area on the page and use visual clues like a shaded background you can show that this a dedicated area for recommended products.

Visitors who aren’t interested can filter the area out and ignore it while those that do want to look should be presented with a satisfying number of options. This could include a set number viewable with a side scroll to view more.

It should be easy to quickly view product information and add to the basket without losing track of the original purchase item. It’s even better if you can offer a one click option to buy everything in one step.

one click buy

Don’t Get It Wrong

As with any form or personalisation there is a danger if you offer the wrong products.

The whole idea of personalisation is that it’s personal, customers want to feel you care about them. Offer them the wrong products and you blow the whole experience apart and the customer sees not a personal experience but a trick to try to make them buy more.

It’s therefore vital to make sure your systems take into account both the product and the customers history on your site.

Also be sure to test and keep testing to make sure the results are right.

Buyers Also Bought

It’s something we are now used to seeing on a number of site “customers who bought this item also bought”. It’s a great tool to use all that purchasing data your systems have been collecting and turn it into something useful – an extra product recommendation tool.

Again as great as it all sounds you need to still test the results to be sure they give the recommendations that customers want and not just a random selection of products.

customers also bought


Product recommendations are a great tool for any eCommerce site and can help add a personalised experience for your customers that supports sales.

However as with any automated system they need careful and regular testing plus the ability for manual customisation to make sure they really feel like personal recommendations.

Also when reviewing their performance retailers need to look over longer periods of time and other forms of customer engagement to make sure they see the true value the recommendations bring to their business.


For more eCommerce development and marketing solutions talk contact ExtraDigital.

Wednesday 17th December 2014

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