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Make Better Product Recommendations with These 13 Best Practices

  • Conversion Rate Optimization

Today’s consumers are bombarded with too many ads and promotional messages.

Despite this trend, companies that deliver personalized shopping experiences are getting an increase in sales.

In fact, research by Evergage found that 45% of consumers are more likely to shop on a site that offers personalized recommendations, and 56% of online shoppers are more likely to return to a site that offers product recommendations.

Moreover, a 2015 study by VentureBeat found that 75% of “digital natives” expect e-commerce stores to deliver personalized shopping experiences.

Not a real shocker.

Would you rather receive recommendations and upsells based on your purchase history? Or do you prefer to receive random product promotions via email? The answer seems obvious.

Customers love product recommendations that are tailored based on their interests.

Case in point: When you feel indecisive about a product, I bet you check out the “You May Also Like” section or “Similar Items” section.

It’s easy to think that product recommendations are merely a group similar items. But what’s important is executing it intelligently in order to boost conversions.

How can you improve your product recommendations? How can you use them to increase sales? Let’s explore various product recommendation tactics to help you get better results.

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Product Recommendation Tactics That Can Boost Conversions

1. Use High-Quality Product Photos

How do you get people to check out your recommended items? You obviously need to take good product photos.

Kate Spade’s recommendation section feature high-quality photos. Additionally, when your cursor lands on the bag, it features a model using it.

This makes it easier for people to visualize how they’ll look if they buy it for themselves.

It’s a simple strategy, but it can successfully pique their interest.

2. Make Smarter Recommendations

There are different types of product recommendations.

You can create recommendations based on the most popular items, similar items, and so on. But you should also consider making personalized recommendations based on an individual’s preferences or social data.

Using recommendation engines or SaaS solutions, you can capture consumers’ shopping patterns, behavior, purchase history, and wishlists. You can then present recommendations that will vary from shopper to shopper.

If you can gather social data, you can also use ‘socially enhanced’ recommendations.

This helps you understand what your shoppers are researching, reviewing, and buying. Then using these insights, you can identify and create key personas or social groups. This lets you automatically provide customers with intelligent and relevant recommendations that can increase average order value.

Source: WooCommerce

A good tip is to deliver these recommendations via email.

SmartMail reports that product suggestions sent via email can increase your click-through rate (CTR) by a whopping 300% or more. This means higher chances of conversion and more traffic to your site.

Source: Remarkety

Of course, for this to work, you shouldn’t recommend items at random. Your product suggestions or email campaigns’ contents should be based on data and user segments. After that, personalize the email for each customer.

Another great idea is to place recommendations on abandoned cart emails. This way, you can convince users to return and buy something from your store.

Source: Barilliance

Send Engaging Recommendation Types

There are different types of product recommendations, but which are the ones you should send?

Barilliance’s study found the most engaging recommendation types which include the following:

3. Look at What Customers Buy

“What customers buy” is a basic type of recommendation that features the popular products of an e-commerce store.

Popularity often takes into account the bestselling items, but other recommender systems also consider views, purchases, time spent on page, clicks, add-to-cart events, and so on. A good tip is to select the metrics that best represents your product’s popularity among visitors.

This type of recommendation can effectively boost sales, given that Pareto’s rule of marketing states that 80% of product sales come from 20% of products.

Source: Magemail

4. Use Customers Also Viewed

Collaborative filtering or the “customers also viewed”  recommendation works by collecting data, interests or preferences from many users. It then considers how often these items were present together in their purchase or browsing history.

The items displayed are tailored or personalized for every user.

You can also use suggest accessories often bought with the product. For example, if you sell a Samsung phone, you can place phone accessories as recommendations.

5. Make Recommendations Based on Google Search

This type of recommendation displays products based on browsing and purchase history.

It requires a lot of behavioral data on users, which is not available for most first-time customers.

This is why e-commerce stores often have a “fallback scenario” when implementing it. As an alternative or “fallback”, the system will deliver general recommendations like popular products or similar products.

6. Use You Might Also Like

The recommendation type “You might also like” usually suggests products that are similar to the ones you’re viewing.

Similarity can be based on very different metrics. Some advanced recommender tools filter meta-data (descriptions, tags, product name etc.) based on similarity. It can also be based on category, color, brand, or business.

Source: Conversio

Amazon uses an “item-to-item collaborative filtering” that calculates the similarity between items based on people’s ratings of those items.

7. Recommend Top Sellers Based on Categories

You can get customers to browse your category pages by recommending the bestsellers or popular products per category.

A good tip is not to label products strictly under one category, but to use a system that provides more diversity in recommendations. For example, products that can be used by both teen females and adult females should be found in both categories.

Experiment With Titles

Recommending products is one thing, but how you present and communicate these items to your shoppers is an equally important task.

To persuade customers to check out your recommendations, consider experimenting with a variety of titles to find out which ones are the most effective at driving action. Let’s check out some examples from top brands:

Soko Glam features a selection of similar products under the title “Recommended For You” to tell customers the items were personally tailored to their interests.

Source: Soko Glam

Kobo uses a similar approach to Soko Glam and features its selection of similar books as “Related Titles” and “More By This Author.”

Missguided incorporates its cheeky brand voice when promoting their products. If you have a unique brand voice or identity, consider playing with words and A/B testing a variety of titles.

8. Use Contrasting Colors

Color is one of the most important elements in design.

It can also make your product recommendations standout. This is why you should use contrasting colors to make your recommendation standout from the rest of the page.

Here’s another example from Soko Glam:

In the product page, the product’s background is grey and white, but the recommended section’s background is blue-green. The contrasting colors make it more noticeable for viewers. The colors also look nice and clean, which goes well with the site’s overall design.

9. Add Compelling CTAs

A product recommendation isn’t complete without calls-to-actions (CTAs) like “Add to Cart,” “Add to Bag,” “Learn More” and so on. This makes it easy for customers to buy products, as well as view its details on the product page.

A good tip is to make the call-to-action (CTA) button noticeable. You don’t have to make it red, but you can add borders or emphasize the CTA like ASOS:

Product Recommendations on 404 Pages

A 404 page is more than just an error page. It can steer a good shopping experience towards disappointment, and it can lead customers to leave the site.

How can you turn the inevitable 404 page from a deal-breaker to an opportunity?

One study found that half of all the stores that used product recommendations placed them on their 404 pages too.

How can you make this work? Let’s check out some examples.

Steve Madden’s 404 page has an interesting copy and displays an array of its hottest products to get customers to return to the site.

Source: Amasty

Nike has a similar approach to Steve Madden’s. It has a simple copy, accompanied by links to its top products.

Source: Wpromote

10. Consider Above the Fold vs. Below the Fold

The concept of above the fold originates from newspapers, which were folded on the news-stands. The portion above the fold or the top half was the only portion visible to passersby. So, publishers often presented attention-grabbing headlines or images to attract readers.

The same principle applies to websites.

Anything that is not immediately visible, or requires scrolling, is considered below the fold.

But does location matter on e-commerce sites? You bet!

Barilliance reported that above the fold recommendations are 1.7x more effective than below the fold recommendations.

Customers who are browsing various product pages have likely made up their mind to buy an item before visiting the site. They want to make a purchase but are unsure about the item they should buy. In these cases, placing recommendations above the fold is a matter of convenience for shoppers with an intent to purchase.

For example, Etsy subtly places its product recommendations at the top right corner to make it easier for customers to find similar items.

11. Add Recommendations on the Shopping Cart Page

Another way you can use recommendations to increase average order value is to place them at the shopping cart page.

One study found that 25% of customers who click on these recommendations actually buy them.

Source: BrainSINS

You can also offer free shipping as an added incentive to purchase the product.

For example, if you offer free shipping based on a minimum value, help customers attain that value by offering items that go with the ones they’ve purchased in the cart.

This will surely boost your profits.

12. Use Product Recommendations in Order Confirmation Emails

A customer successfully purchased an item in your shop. Good job! But do you stop there? How can you drive more repeat purchases to your e-commerce store?

Order confirmation emails give you another opportunity to upsell your products.

In fact, one study found that order confirmation emails have an open rate of 70.9%, which is 4x more than your average promotional email. This makes a lot of sense. Once you make a purchase, you quickly check out your email to confirm the success of your transaction.

Here’s an example from Udemy:

Udemy promotes courses that are similar to the items bought by customers who bought the same course. It’s a simple tactic, but it can successfully stir their interest.

13. Create Personalized Landing Pages With Recommendations

If a customer is looking for your bags, but when she visits your site she finds unrelated items (i.e. shoes, accessories and other items you sell), then the back button is an inevitable result.

So, how can you make it fast and easy for your customers to find what they want? How do you speed up the shopping process? Create personalized landing pages for related or similar products.

Make a landing page based on a popular keyword or search term related to your brand. For example, if you sell red dresses like Forever 21, create a landing page that recommends all the red dresses you sell.

Not only will this help you rank high for a relevant keyword, but it can also help you entice customers coming from Google.

Free Downloadable Bonus

Want More Conversion Rate Optimization Strategies?

Get access to our free CRO toolkit and skyrocket your organic traffic, on-page conversion rate and more (includes resources not found in the blog post).

How Will You Use Product Recommendations to Boost Your Sales?

Now that you have an idea on how to use product recommendations to boost conversions, it’s time to integrate them to your e-commerce site.

Create the most engaging recommendation types. Experiment with titles to determine which words or phrases can drive clicks. Place your recommendations above the fold and in 404 pages.

Don’t forget to suggest items on the shopping cart page to increase average order value.

Whatever type of recommendation you make, data is key. Send recommendations based on purchase history, context, customer behavior, popularity, and so on.

Did I miss any tactics? Got any ideas tips for product recommendations? Let me know in the comments below.

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