How to Grow Customer Stickiness With Product Recommendations
The Secret Sauce of Personalized Recommendations
Product recommendations that give a user that "aha!" moment may seem hard to build, but are actually not that complicated if you follow these fundamental principles:
1. Truly know your customer. Many websites try a method of implementing product recommendations by showcasing the same items to all users, irrespective of their individual tastes or what they're shopping for. This is not only a waste of time, it can actually be a huge turnoff for users as proved in this Online Personal Experience study.
With the proliferation of tools at your disposal today, there's no excuse to not know your customers inside out. Use analytics tools like KISSmetrics to build detailed user profiles that can be referenced to serve up relevant product recommendations. Data related to a user's purchase history, current and past browsing behavior, geographical location, and comparative data from other users are all key factors that go into building a solid product recommendation engine.
2. Treat new and repeat customers differently. Imagine being greeted with a "Welcome back!" at a hotel that you've never stayed at. Viewing a new customer with the same lens as an existing one has pretty much the same effect — it simply disorients the customer and makes for a bad first impression.
Make sure your recommendation engine can identify the difference between a new and returning customer. This can be done using cookies, user log-in data or session IDs, but it's something that cannot be overlooked.
Offer recommendations like "Most Popular in (Your City)" or "Best-Sellers" or even "What Other Customers are Viewing" to new users. These recommendations give a new visitor a bearing of the best your site can offer and allows them to pick from the trending items instantly.
Returning customers must see a "Last Viewed" box that allows them to pick up where they left off. A "Recommended for You" option takes into account buyer history and profile data of repeat customers to carefully curate items that will match the user's tastes.
By treating a returning customer like an old friend, you're telling them that they're important to you and laying the foundation of a lasting relationship.
3. Apply "Location, Location, Location" to your web pages. It's not just important to offer product recommendations; these recommendations should also be located in relevant locations. Take a page out of Amazon.com's playbook and place your recommendation widgets as strategically as possible. Consider the following places:
- on the homepage (e.g., "Last Viewed Items");
- on product pages (e.g., upsell widgets that say "Customers Also Bought");
- Within the checkout experience (e.g., cross-sell widgets like "Buy ________ for your ________"); and
- on the thank-you page (e.g., impulse buys combined with short validity coupons).
What's remarkable is that Amazon has not one but two upsell widgets on its products page!
By offering recommendation widgets in these high-traffic and easily spotted locations, you're making your users' lives easier. The reward? Users love sites that put their experience above all else, and return to such sites over and over again.
4. Recommend products via email. Email has proven to be time and again one of the most potent tools in a digital marketer's toolbox. According to the Direct Marketing Association, 66 percent of shoppers have made a purchase online as a result of a marketing email.
Consumers are now immune to token personalization tactics like adding their name to an email. However, they're more likely to open emails that allude to an item they like or recently viewed, even in the subject line. While you promote your newly launched products or build engagement with a fun contest via your email newsletter, don't forget to offer personalized product recommendations.
The desire for relevant content seeps into email communication as well. Your conversions are a direct indication of how useful your communication is to your users. At least 82 percent of consumers claim they shop more from brands that send them personalized product recommendations in their emails.
Email is a superb direct-to-customer and habit-forming platform that helps maintain top of mind brand recall and eventual brand preference among your customers. No wonder it was found to be the most successful personalization tactic over product pages and shopping carts by over 80 percent of the retailers who took part in a study conducted by the e-tailing group.
5. Build in social proof. You don't need me to tell you how important social media is to any online retailer's marketing strategy. But I'm not talking about social media here. Well, not entirely.
Consumers have a natural tendency to trust reviews or statements from fellow shoppers, for obvious reasons. By building in a social angle to your product recommendations, you're tapping into this primal instinct of a shopper to trust a third party more than the seller itself.
The Barilliance study I referred to earlier also reported that "what others buy" happens to be the most engaging recommendation type on e-commerce sites.
Rohan Ayyar dons multiple roles in SEO and analytics at E2M, a digital marketing firm. Follow him on Twitter at @searchrook.
Rohan Ayyar is the regional marketing manager for India at SEMrush. His blog, The Marketing Mashup, covers digital marketing from the perspective of B2B, B2C, lead generation, mobile marketing, SEO, social media, content marketing, database marketing including predictive analytics, and conversion rate optimization. In addition, he'll look at emerging marketing technology and how marketers can use it. Reach Ayyar at firstname.lastname@example.org.