One of the biggest buzzwords in brand and ecommerce marketing in 2016 has been the product recommendation tool. Although it has been around for years, the levels of customer data and in turn, personalization potential have increased with the growth of analytics and customer lifecycle tools.

A product recommendation tool makes use of this data to engage your customer with the right context. From Amazon to Zappos – everyone has one. So how do you find a product recommendation tool that will help your brand and products stand out in a crowded marketplace? Here’s our (expert) advice.

From Amazon to Zappos - Every brand uses a product recommendation tool. So what will help your brand stand out? Click To Tweet

Personalization Quotient

A product recommendation tool is most effective if it is good at personalization. By personalization, I don’t mean the generic ‘items you may also like’ and ‘people also viewed.’ It’s 2016, which means it is time to move beyond that formula or get more creative with it. When a user is logged in, website and product personalization can happen according to the customer’s gender, age group, likes, and a whole lot more.

product recommendation toolImage: Vineyard Vines

For example, when a customer logs in and you know they work in the travel industry, you may want to share an ebook with them – not just any ebook though – one that is personalized for their industry and helps them understand your content from their perspective, with familiar examples and challenges.  Look for a product recommendation tool that can do something like this, and you can start to create a truly 1:1 marketing experience.

 

Performance

When you are a prospect for a company that is building a product recommendation tool, chances are they are offering you a trip to the moon and back in terms of results. Everything sounds glossy and perfect – yet often once the sale is done, you feel like you are stuck, not sure where to start and whether the product can actually do what you were promised. To avoid unpleasant surprises like this, do your research about the core product. Ask questions like

  • What kind of rules and algorithms go into the recommendation tool?
  • Is there a good mix of algorithms, trigger and rule based factors and semantic analytics?
  • Do the case studies look promising?
  • Are there happy customers who your sales rep can recommend to you for reviews?

Asking these questions before you invest will help you narrow down different tools to find the right one.

Inventory and Tracking

No product recommendation tool can function as a complete analytics platform, yet some level of all analytics need to be available in your product recommendation tool. Two essential analytics to look for here are site wide conversion statistics and segment level reporting.

personalizationImage: Search Engine People

This  helps you understand customer engagement with your recommended content, and conversions that happen through this. It also helps you understand the path your customers are taking and have a better overall view of your customer base to personalize further. 

Uniqueness

When you use most product recommendation tools, most customers see the same recommended/related products. This isn’t how true 1:1 personalization works.  Does it go beyond rule based triggers and algorithms to bring you something simple, yet different? Using questionnaires to understand the user is one way to do this.

product recommendation toolImage: Boomtrain

Boomtrain offers a product recommendation tool with an in-built communication platform you can use to communicate with customers, making it a hub for customer information, insights, communication and conversions. Other unique approaches include

  • Questionnaires

    Using questionnaires helps a customer feel engaged, and helps a recommendation engine understand their taste and preferences fast – even if there is no legacy data to create this recommendation. This is great to use for anonymous and guest customers – and also nudges them towards signing up. The North Face did this well with their IBM-Watson powered questionnaire to find the perfect jacket.
  • Exit Intent Overlays

    Personalization for anonymous website visitors can happen based on how they interacted with your website even if they visited just once. Take a look at how Yieldify helped Dominos achieve a 99:1 ROI by adding personalization to their exit overlays
  • Buy This Look


         When it comes to ecommerce clothing and accessory brands, a good way to go beyond the generic recommendation methods can            be the ‘Buy this look’ recommendation. Helping customers pair, match and style their looks based on a particular item them they
intend to buy.

Integration and Support Experience

Once you are convinced about the product aspect of your product recommendation tool and believe it has all the ingredients necessary to engage your customers right, take a look at the processes in place to onboard your brand and the dedicated customer success resources that you will have to count on.  Find a company with a product recommendation tool that also offers

  • Goal setting with Customer Success Team
  • Customer Database merging and list cleanup
  • Detailed analysis of your current metrics and acquisition flows.

A customer success team that celebrates small wins with you and constantly shares tips for your success while being brutally honest about where your branding is going wrong is a great asset to have when you are putting in place a product recommendation tool.


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