Product recommendation: how to use it strategically so that your customers buy more from you

Picture this.

A customer (let’s call him John) lands on your online store looking for a motorbike helmet for his daughter.

The second he lands on the site, he sees among the featured products an economic helmet with a very basic design, so he clicks on it.

As he reads about its features, he realizes there’s a string of recommended products, including helmets for kids. Among them, he sees one with kitties on it he knows his daughter will love.

It’s more expensive, but he’s okay with it; he adds it to the cart without thinking about it too much.

Besides, when he’s about to pay, right at the end of the checkout process, some motorbike gloves for kids that match the helmet pop up, and he adds them to the cart too.

The result?

John has found a helmet and a pair of gloves that are perfect for his daughter, so he’s thrilled about it (even if he has spent a lot more than he had anticipated).

That’s the beauty of product recommendation.

A strategy that a priori might seem really simple, but there’s actually a lot to it.

And the best thing is, if you know how to apply it to your eCommerce, it can help you please your customers and sell more.

Would you like to know how?

Well, here’s our recommendation: read this post carefully and you’ll learn how. 😉

👉 7 ways to take advantage of the potential of product recommendation to boost conversion

We can identify two main benefits to product recommendation as a strategy in the story we just told you:

Bear in mind we’ve talked about a “strategy.”

The thing is that, in order for you to be able to make the best of product recommendation, there are certain techniques you should know.

Let’s see them.

✅ 1. Use the power of social proof (with best-selling products)

How many millions of people could have read The Da Vinci Code only because it was a bestseller?

In the end, it’s inevitable; nothing is as reassuring as social proof.

Let’s be honest; if we see that a product is popular we think “If that many people are buying it, there must be a reason”. And that increases our chances of including it in our cart.

So go ahead and take advantage of this to give your most popular products visibility:

In this case, this store has chosen to include them in its “related products” section, adding a “Best Seller” tag.

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✅ 2. Offer the user complementary products (and increase the average ticket price)

Do you remember John (from the beginning of this post) ended up buying a more expensive helmet and some gloves he hadn’t even considered?

Well, that example contains 2 of the most popular strategies to increase any eCommerce’s average ticket price:

  • Up-selling: you recommend a customer a better product than the one he has in mind at a higher price. For instance, you’re looking at an iPhone 7 product card and among the recommended products there’s an iPhone 10.
  • Cross-selling: products that complement the one a customer has bought (or is about to). In the case of the iPhone, we could suggest the user to buy a matching case or a pair of AirPods.

And… no; we did not come up with this idea ourselves.

If you look closely, Apple’s product cards include a “Compatible Accessories” section.

By the way, if you’d like to learn more about this strategy, make sure you check out this post.

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✅ 3. Ensure nobody misses out on your special offers

Another really interesting option is to recommend the products you have on sale.

Very frequently, it’s the case that a customer hadn’t considered getting a specific product, but then they see it’s on sale and think: “Well, I guess I could take advantage of this offer and get it now at a cheaper price; I don’t want to miss out on this offer.”  

The scarcity trigger in action. 😉

The best thing is that product recommendation is a very adjustable resource. Recommendations can be displayed:

  • On the homepage (on a banner, on a specific tab of the browsing menu bar…).
  • On product cards.
  • In newsletters.

Try different options to see where you get a higher conversion.

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✅ 4. Do you have seasonal products? Just hand them to your customer on a plate

A way of anticipating your customer’s needs is including seasonal products in your recommendations.

For example, think about the famous “Back to school” one.

If you sell backpacks or school supplies, surely a fair amount of your customers will come searching for those products. So, why not make it easy for them and include them among your featured products on the homepage?

Another pretty curious example.

See how Amazon Spain has made the best of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage season to highlight product categories that relate to the journey (backpacks, shoes, foot care products, etc.)

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✅ 5. “Other users have also viewed…” AKA “You’d better get this before it runs out”

This recommendation indicates which product sites have been visited by other buyers.

Something similar to what we see on IKEA’s website when we go on the product card of one of their planters.

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This strategy reinforces social proof; the user sees that certain specific products are attractive to other users and that builds up trust.

But, what if we take it up a notch?

For example, in addition to showing them that other people are also viewing such products, you can let them know there are only a few items left in stock.

It’s like saying: “Watch out, this is a very popular product and if you don’t hurry up, you could miss out on it”.

Once more we’re taking advantage of the scarcity’s psychological trigger we mentioned above.

✅ 6. Product bundling (or “Frequently bought together”)

Let’s see another frequent and effective way of recommending products: kits.

This strategy, known as product bundling, consists in grouping different complementary products and offering them in a single bundle.

This works well because:

  • The user doesn’t have to choose: by offering them a “closed pack”, they don’t have to spend a while comparing product cards to decide which to get.
  • It makes the purchase process more efficient: by only clicking once, they can add all the products in the bundle to their cart.
  • It reduces the price: even if it’s not a rule of thumb, the usual thing is getting the full kit at a cheaper price than getting all the products separately.

For example, if you’re looking at a desktop on Amazon, right below you’ll be offered a mouse, trackpad and keyboard bundle. 

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✅ 7. One step beyond: personalized product recommendations

So far, everything we’ve seen involves general recommendations, identical to all users.

But now, we go one step beyond with personalized recommendations.

These suggestions, as you can tell, vary automatically from customer to customer (which is known as dynamic content).

Every user is offered personalized results based on:

  • Their purchase history.
  • The products they’ve viewed.
  • Their demographics.
  • Etc.

The following is an example of dynamic recommendations on Amazon, based on previous purchases made by the user and on the products they’ve viewed in the past.

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👉 Where can you include product recommendations in your store?

The most common thing is to find these suggestions in product cards.

And even if they’re a good spot (almost a mandatory one) to add them, we’d still fall short. 

You can also include them:

  • On the homepage: use the homepage to add those bestsellers, new arrivals, special offers, and all those products you want to push in order to favor your sales strategy.
  • Via e-mail: use e-mail marketing to send your subscribers messages recommending products according to the season. You can also send them dynamic content with personalized recommendations. “Have you recently purchased these trendy shoes? Then, you might be interested in these ones…”.
  • Checkout page: before the person completes checkout, you could show them other complementary products to the one in their cart.
  • Category page: you can add the best-selling products from each category at the beginning of the page as a way of guiding the user through their purchase.
  • Error page: did you know that error-404 pages can be personalized? Make the best of them to include some of your best-selling products and avoid having customers who come across faulty links leave your website.

As you can see, there’s plenty of spots.

However, there’s one more spot that few eCommerces consider; one that can help you boost conversion.

👉 Did you know you can also recommend products with your internal search engine?

You didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Well, with an internal search engine, you can:

  • Feature the products you want to advertise the most.
  • Offer personalized results based on each user’s behavior.
  • Display banners with offers.

A smart search engine such as Doofinder offers all these features.

Thanks to all these features (among many others), the stores that use it have seen their sales improve between 10% and 20%.

So here’s one more recommendation for you… Go to this 30-day free trial and see for yourself. 😉