This is a guest post from Antony Kattukaran, the CEO of Tagalys, a company that creates products to help eCommerce merchants with product recommendations, site search, and listing pages.
A timely recommendation from a salesperson at a store can convert someone who’s “just browsing” into a customer. These recommendations can also increase the average order value and store revenue. But there’s an art to them. They need to be done tastefully and judiciously, because if a customer feels bombarded, the salesperson’s efforts might backfire and drive the customer away empty handed.
In eCommerce, while you don’t have a salesperson walking around and interacting with customers, there are tools available that enable you to make recommendations and personalize suggestions. But just like it goes with brick-and-mortar retail, too many recommendations or the wrong one at the wrong time can be a turn-off—and potentially cost you a sale.
When product recommendations are done right, they can lead to a massive lift in sales. For instance, a study by Invespcro found that product recommendations account for 35 percent of purchases on Amazon. And a big part of getting your product recommendations right is putting them in the correct places on your site and in your marketing emails—without going so overboard that you push customers away.
Here are seven of the most effective locations to place recommendations to optimize your conversion rate, average order value, and revenue.
A product page is the most obvious spot for recommendations; when someone’s browsing a specific product, it’s logical to suggest similar items.
Just remember customers love choices—but not too many. You don’t want someone to suffer from decision fatigue and wind up feeling too overwhelmed to make a choice. So here, it’s best to recommend products with the same category and tags, similar (but slightly more expensive) products, and popular products that have a high chance of converting.
You can also set up your recommendations with phrasing like “Customers who viewed this also looked at…” or “Customers who purchased this also bought…” This gives your recommendations some social proof, which can increase the likelihood of a customer purchasing one or more of them.
The placement of recommendations on the product page should be right below the product itself. Check out this example from SnapDeal, where they place their recommendations directly under the product, above things like reviews and more detailed product specs.
Recommendations can absolutely work on the checkout page—however, you have to understand the stage of the customer’s shopping journey to make the right suggestions. At the checkout page, the customer already has a product in the cart and is ready to pay for it, so think about cross-selling accessories and other complementary items. If the person has winter gloves in their cart, they might also want a matching scarf or hat.
Another tactic is to recommend products based on the customer’s browsing or purchasing history. Since the person is already on the path to making a purchase, they might think, “Well, while I’m checking out anyway, might as well get those other things I liked too.”
For example, BigBasket recommends products at checkout that the customer browsed but didn’t buy—and they put those recommendations right above the items in the cart, making them easy to add.
Other good positions to place recommendations on the checkout page are right above the “Checkout” or “Pay Now” button.
It takes a careful touch to integrate product recommendations on the home page so it doesn’t feel as if you’re bombarding customers like an overzealous salesperson.
If you do put recommendations on the home page, be judicious—just a few best sellers or trending products to catch the eye of potential customers. If you have historical sales or browsing data on the customer, you can also recommend a few personalized products here as well.
Amazon, for instance, makes both general and personalized product recommendations on its home page.
Since a category or listing page has so many products already displayed, it can be challenging to squeeze in recommendations that effectively stand out. You may have to get creative with your placement—and that can include hiding the recommendations until a customer clicks a link or hovers over a product.
Check out this example from Myntra. When you hover over the image of one of their products, an option is displayed to view similar items.
Welcome emails have extremely high open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. (PDF) So you can capitalize on their effectiveness with some smart product recommendations. Add images and direct links back to each product’s page to make it easier for customers to transition from reading the email to buying.
Here’s an example of an email from Lush that welcomes their new customer and, at the same time, recommends some popular products.
Order confirmations and receipts are transactional emails, which means their primary purpose is to convey important information about a transaction. However, they can also be a place for a few quick product recommendations. (Make sure to check the laws in the jurisdictions where you’re sending these emails, however—transactional emails have their own set of rules about promotional content.)
Remember, the customer has already made a purchase. The goal here is to persuade them that they need something related to the item they bought—or to bring them back to your store ASAP to buy another great product. These recommendations should be near the bottom of the email. That’s for legal reasons (in the U.S., for example, promotional content legally must be after the primary information in a transactional email). And it’s also because you don’t want a customer to feel like you’re aggressively pushing for another sale before they’ve even received the item they just bought.
Cart abandonment emails aren’t a traditional place for product recommendations—since the primary goal of these emails is to get a customer to return to your store to purchase what they left in their cart, not to browse for something new. But, in some cases, a good recommendation might be the extra push a customer needs to come back. Consider recommending complementary products to what’s in the person’s cart, products that have a slightly lower price point, or products with good reviews—those can all be effective in this situation.
Product recommendations can be a very valuable tool—but it’s important not to overdo it, as that could drive away a customer. Some of the savvy places to put product recommendations include through your eCommerce site and within your marketing emails, including:
- Product pages. Recommend products with the same category and tags, similar (but slightly more expensive) products, and popular related products that have a high chance of converting.
- Checkout page. Cross-sell accessories based on the customer’s purchase, or recommend products based on their browsing history.
- Home page. While you don’t want to overwhelm new customers, the home page is a good spot to feature best sellers or personalized recommendations.
- Product category and listing pages. It can be tricky to incorporate recommendations on crowded listing pages, so consider displaying them when a customer clicks on a link or hovers over a product.
- Welcome emails. Welcome emails have high engagement, so take advantage by recommending popular products.
- Order confirmations and receipts. Persuade customers to come back to your site to make another purchase by showcasing more great products they might like.
- Cart abandonment emails. Use recommendations as a tool to bring back customers who’ve abandoned a cart by suggesting complementary or well-reviewed products.
Solid list. But I see some gaps. Mind if I fill them?
I think it’s important to differentiate between recommendations that complement the current product, and suggestions that might be alternatives. For example, If you’re offering alternatives in the cart, you’re asking for trouble. Those could create doubt (i.e., “Am I buying the right thing?”). As anyone who does sales/marketing knows: “Doubt is a deal-breaker.” We need to be vigilant about mitigating doubt, or get comfortable about too many abandoned carts.
As for 6. Order confirmations and receipts. Um. How do I say this? No way! Never!! That example is an invitation for a return (of the purchased product). Worse, it might create buyers’ remorse. Make me feel like I made the wrong decision, make me feel bad about myself, and I can guarantee you our relationship fade, if not end.
Again, this is the difference between a recommendation and an (alt) suggestion. It’s important to know the difference. It’s important to know when and where to use them.