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Let’s say winter is coming and you need a new coat. Something warm. Something sleek. Something totally you, like that wool trench coat you saw being modeled on your social media feed.

You go to your favorite retail clothing brand’s online storefront, enter “winter coat” in the search box, browse the products tab, and finally peruse the product detail page of one that looks perfect.

As you drill deeper into the product description, however, you conclude that this coat is not a gem. The fabric or color is weird, some irritated reviewer gave it only one star for shabby quality, or your size was sold out long ago.

Darn. The product data is a problem. Maybe you should jump off this site to another online store and try again.

You might like this?

But then, as you’re scrolling, “You might also like this…” jumps out at you, accompanied by thumbnails of more great coats, plus some jackets. 

You can’t help but click, then click some more. Nice-looking stuff. You might even buy one of these slick leather jackets — obviously not at all what you’d had in mind for cold weather — but heck, you’d look cool.

You like this shopping experience, and you’re comfortable with how it works. You probably run across related product recommendations all the time on your favorite retailer sites, like Zappos, Wayfair, Best Buy, and of course, Amazon. Maybe you’ve even gone specifically in search of a number of related products before making a buying decision, just to make sure you’ve considered the best ideas.

What matters  is that you didn’t abandon the site and possibly made a purchase.

That’s the power of related product recommendations for retailers. When companies can effectively  show related products to their shoppers or subscribers, their retention and conversion can go a bit nuts.

Related products, higher returns

Shoppers are on your website because they love your products. You can spread the love by showing them related-product pages and thereby extending the time they spend with you.

According to Salesforce (2018):

  • Thirty-seven percent of shoppers who placed an order online had clicked on a recommendation 
  • Those who clicked on a recommendation spent an average of 12.9 minutes on the site, compared with just 2.9 minutes for those who didn’t 
  • Shoppers who used search and clicked a recommendation converted 3.7 times more often than those who only searched — with 4.2 times more on mobile devices

What are related product recommendations?

Now that you know they can be surprisingly powerful, let’s make sure we’re on the same page in terms of what, officially, makes up a related product recommendation.

It’s simply a link to similar relevant content that, based on the user’s search or other indicators, may be of interest. As with the coat example, other coats and jackets appear as recommendations, along with  keep-warm items like scarves, gloves, hats. This functionality keeps potential buyers engaged in evaluating products. 

What’s behind the scenes

The secret of related product recommendations is a savvy search engine that analyzes users’ interactions along with different products to draw links between those items. The qualitative data is then applied so the site can display the most promising recommendations.

But it doesn’t stop there. The more data that’s collected from someone’s online searches and other interactions, the more accurate their product recommendations will be. In time, a retailer’s search engine gets smarter. It doesn’t lose track of what you were searching for last week; it thoughtfully recommends items because it recalls that you did that search earlier.

You’re likely to find those ideas encouraging, particularly when coupled with endearing features like quick delivery and free shipping. No wonder people rack up hundreds of Amazon deliveries. Perhaps it’s time to start going to Amazoners Anonymous?

The rewards of recommending right

Getting your related recommendations even somewhat close to what customers want is a sure-fire way to improve the website experience for your shoppers.

Here are three benefits of offering high-quality related product suggestions:

Higher shopper engagement levels

Ecommerce customer engagement and an excellent shopping experience go hand in hand, as Algolia client Auto Mercado found out. When related product recommendations are laid out in a user-friendly way, customers are enticed to trawl around your site, explore similar products, consider all the cross-sells and upsells, and take it from there.

An A-rated customer experience 

We can’t say it enough…when it comes to selling online, an excellent, personally tailored user experience keeps people coming back. Easy-to-browse, well-placed product recommendations boost the quality of the shopping experience, as our client Polish toy seller Noski Noski discovered. When you can draw a shopper’s awareness to what could be their perfect item, your job’s well done.

Impressive conversion metrics

If you can consistently demonstrate that you understand your shoppers’ needs and have something that will work for them, they’ll be more likely to buy. Making the right product recommendations is a proven way to charge up conversion.

Doing related product recommendations right

How much more successful could your ecommerce site be? To get the best results from rolling out related content suggestions, think about following these guidelines:

Keep left

Ever heard of banner blindness? Don’t worry, it’s not some terrible eye condition. It’s the tendency of people to ignore content to the right of the main content area because they think it’s ads. The online shopping public has adapted to skip over that area. So, as with the chess motto “A knight on the rim is dim,” steer clear of the right margin.

Don’t go too low

If not the visual wasteland to the right, where should you situate the template for your related product suggestions?

Definitely not at the very bottom of the page. Your prospective customers aren’t likely to see a related products section in that (possibly far-away) spot.

Give up? Where should related item recommendations go? Merchandising experts advise putting them directly below the product content. That’s where shoppers expect them and where they’re most likely to click them.

Stay connected

If a shopper is looking at blenders and puts one in their shopping cart, but your recommended products show a washing machine, one of these things is not like the other. They’re going to scratch their head and wonder what’s gotten into your add-on algorithm. Worse, they’re probably going to ignore anything your site suggests from that point on, whether it’s on the home page or their cart page at checkout. Related recommendations must be — you guessed it — related. 

Use a recommended expert

Algolia Recommend has a great reputation for enabling rapid, scalable product discovery. So if you’re ready to optimize your site experience, our APIs are ready to expertly show related products for your industry and shopper base so you can start lowering your bounce rate, improving your average order value, and driving up your revenue. Check us out.

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Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

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