Imagine going to a fast food joint, buying a hamburger, and the cashier asking you, “Do you want a hamburger to go with that hamburger?”. Ridiculous, right?
I’ve noticed a design flaw in most e-commerce websites I’ve shopped from, including giants who should know better, in how they deal with product recommendations. You know, how when you browse the website and visit a few product pages, other products from the same categories as the ones you visited are recommended to you in widgets, sidebars, on the homepage, etc. Some shops even email you the recommendations (assuming you were logged in when you visited).
The problem I have (or rather, most stores have) is that, when recommending products, they completely ignore the user’s recent order history. I’ve bumped into this behaviour recently when shopping for headphones. I placed an order on a local e-commerce for a pair yesterday, and now the website is filled with recommendations for headphones. Well, I don’t need any more headphones, you are wasting valuable screen real estate with products you have zero chance of selling me, when you could at least have a small chance to make a sale by recommending products like audio cables, sound cards, speakers, etc. Hell, in the case of stores like Amazon, who sell pretty much any product known to man, they could even improve their odds slightly by promoting audibooks, music, and so on. This wouldn’t guarantee sales, of course, but any chance is better than zero, no?
Now, for those of you developing e-commerce websites. The backend of the store should have an option to group product categories into “related categories”. While the user browses the website, make them recommendations from the same categories as the ones he’s been visiting, just as stores all around the world are currently doing, this feature of the e-commerce platform should already be in place. But, as soon as the user places an order, immediately switch the recommendations and promote products from the categories related to the ones he just bought from. This is a small technical tweak that makes so much sense it’s a wonder so few stores do it.