The whole point of an e-commerce site is to get customers to make purchases. Partly this means a site needs to remove barriers that might make a customer rethink his or her decision (e.g., the site must have a good user interface, must implement sound security, and so forth). But, more importantly, there have to be items the customer wants to buy in the first place. While a functional browse or search system can help customers find what they’re looking for, being able to provide knowledgeable recommendations can go a long way towards increasing sales.
There are two broad types of product recommendations:
- Upselling: Recommending similar products that are better and more expensive.
- Cross-selling: Recommending related products that the customer might want in addition to the original, intended product.
Which type of recommendations your e-commerce site is capable of making depends upon what you’re selling. Cross-selling is the most universal: Almost anything can have a recommended cross-sell. If you’re selling coffee, you might recommend biscotti or mugs. If you’re selling music, you might recommend similar artists. Upselling is not as universal: If the site sells custom quilts, the only possible upsell is a more expensive quilt. But the logic for upselling is more straightforward: What is something better? If the customer has a 2 lb. bag of coffee in her cart, recommend she buy a 5 lb. bag instead.
Regardless of what type of recommendations the site will make, you’ll need to determine how appropriate recommendations will be defined[md]i.e., how will the site actually know to recommend product B but not product C?