eCommerce Expansion: Increasing Order Value & Sales Through Product Recommendations
You've probably been swayed to make a purchase based on a product recommendation in the last week. It might be as simple as getting the waiter’s input on whether you should go for the steak or the fish. Sometimes, we just need a little push from someone we think knows better than us to help us make a decision.
Not every industry has the advantage of having a waiter on hand to steer customers in the right direction. With a little bit of forethought and a small amount of elbow grease, a well-executed product recommendation feature on your e-commerce platform will be just as effective.
Let’s get started!
How Product Recommendations Work
Naturally enough, the basis of any good product recommendation strategy is working out the best suggestion for each person. Indeed, recommending the wrong products is a turnoff to over a third of prospective buyers.
Most platforms will either have a native product recommendation function or provide the option of adding the feature as a plugin. Still, it’s helpful to understand a little bit of the theory behind how they work.
Product recommendations are made in one of three ways:
- There’s the content-focused method, which tracks users using cookies to make recommendations based on factors including their likes and dislikes.
- The collaborative method, which takes other users into account, to make recommendations based on audience trends in general.
- The hybrid method. As you might expect, this involves doing a bit of both.
So that’s the theory. The rest of this article will be focused on how to leverage this into properly effective product recommendations to boost your conversion rate. Here are 10 product recommendation tips to consider for your e-commerce store.
1. Suggested Products
The classic product recommendation format is recommended for you section. The product recommendations are based on either the visitor’s browsing history or general suggestions from the store. You’ll see this on pretty much every e-commerce store out there.
Here’s a pretty typical example from backpack brand, Kipling.
You can see from the screenshot above the suggested products aren’t well targeted. For example:
- Price Point: This ranges from £48 - £145
- Style: You have everything from handbags to backpacks.
The common denominators here are that all the items are black, and they are bags.
Broad product recommendations are generally going to result in a lower conversion rate than more targeted methods. However, it is still better to have a product recommendation feature in place for your e-commerce store than nothing at all.
2. Frequently Bought Together
Frequently Bought Together is one of many product recommendation strategies you’ll see on Amazon. The idea is to push additional products which go with whatever the viewer is shopping for, such as accessories or spare parts.
As this example illustrates, frequently bought together is an especially powerful upselling technique when the customer is shopping for a single relatively high-value item. Adding comparatively small items is an easy way to push up your average order values.
3. Related Items
Alternatively, you can recommend items which are in some way related, without necessarily being bought together all that frequently. This approach is more centered around inspiring your customers, especially to take on new projects
While I don’t think this example will convert, I had to include this example from Wickes because of how ballsy it is. Generally, related items suggested through a product recommendation would be at a similar price point and the functionality would be more closely linked.
4. Newer Model Recommendations
If a product has been updated, you can increase the order value by informing customers that the item they’re viewing isn’t the latest version. This is something that works well for products that are used by a buyer to display wealth or social standing. For example:
- Mobile phones
- Sound systems
As you can see, this type of product recommendation doesn’t require major changes to the design of your website.
The attraction of having the latest version of something is strong enough that it pretty much does all the work for you. This method works well as an add-on to other product recommendation strategies.
5. Best Sellers
Directing users towards the best selling products within a category has two main upsides. Naturally the first is that you’re pushing popular and therefore sellable items. The other is that it acts as a sort of indirect social proof.
As a tactic, Best Sellers is a particularly effective form of product recommendation in areas like fashion, where trends are at the forefront of customers’ minds when making a purchasing decision. You can see how the rating stars add that extra layer of proof and reassurance of the quality of the product and the legitimacy of the store as a vendor.
6. Customers Also Viewed/Bought
Relating your product recommendations to customers’ behavior is a common practice. This can involve displaying items which other customers bought either instead of or in addition to the item they’re viewing.
Customers also viewed is a solid option if you’re only planning to use one of the product recommendation strategies on this list. As you can see in this example from Zaful, it provides a healthy mix of alternative products and add-ons.
You can see how all of the product recommendations in the example above are in the same price range. This approach probably generates more sales than the Wickes example I showed you earlier.
7. Customers Eventually Bought
Some brands do product comparisons as a way of suggesting a recommendation. Below you can find an example from the e-commerce store Thomman.
The product recommendation box used by Thoman incorporates several different UI choices to guide the customer in making a purchase:
- Provide the favored product at the top of the list with Available Immediately written in green under the product
- Out of the five options, there is only one other product that has a similar price point - Shure SM85. The other three are outliers, providing the appearance of choice while keeping the buyer focused on a limited number of options
- The statistics act as a form of social proof, validating the original product selection
While product comparisons have a clear benefit for on-site conversions, they are also a way of targeting longtail keywords in search results. In this Longtail Pro Review, you can find an example of how you can create a page structure that naturally helps you rank for searched for phrases.
Product comparisons are of course useful for customers who haven’t decided what to purchase. The ability to easily compare similar products helps a person determine what product to buy.
8. Product Bundles
Product bundles can be thought of as the second cousin of Frequently Bought Together. There is one slight difference. With a product bundle a customer will receive a discount on the total order price. This product recommendation strategy is most effective when combining products that a customer is likely to need eventually need anyway.
Product bundles can also be used to sweeten deals. A slight increase in price with the addition of several items can help convert on the fence customers.
9. Browsing History
Tracking past behavior is an obvious way of increasing the LTV of a customer. Sometimes a customer might find the perfect item, but for whatever reason, they are unable to commit at that moment. Notifying customers of items that they’ve previously viewed can act as a reminder that can generate an extra sale.
Amazon is an obvious example of a company that tracks your browsing history. The browsing history product recommendations they provide act as a sort of bookmark reminding customers of what they viewed on their last visit.
10. Email Recommendations
Product recommendations are most commonly found on product pages themselves. You can use email and paid ads on social media to help generate extra sales.
With email, standard automated emails such as order confirmations and cart abandonments provide an excellent selling opportunity which can be taken advantage of through product recommendations.
For example, the average cart abandonment rate stands at 69%. With a cart abandonment email sequence, you can turn some of these lost shoppers into customers.
Alternatively, you can upsell to customers.
Airlines are masters of using every standard email to squeeze in product recommendations. The beauty of this approach is twofold. One, you’re already sending them and two, they have seriously high open rates.
Product recommendations are an effective way of increasing customer order value. You can use any one of these techniques independently. However, it’s common to see a number of the strategies listed above operating side by side.
If you check any random Amazon listing, chances are you’ll see four or five different recommendation sections. When combined with other common techniques such as retargeting and social proof, product recommendations can nudge up the conversion rates of your other marketing efforts.