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6 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Product Recommendations Tool

Most ecommerce businesses are betting big on product recommendations to provide a  personalised online shopping experience and giving customers an engaging platform to shop on. If used effectively, product recommendations can increase average order value and boost conversion rates by up to 20%.

Recommendation systems involve complex algorithms and product discovery techniques which can require a huge investment (both in terms of time and manpower) to build in-house. Today, when there are several recommendation solutions (with some amazing features) available in the market, retailers can easily get started with product recommendations and save a huge amount of time and internal resources.

While scouting for the right personalisation tool, there are 6 crucial questions you must ask before zeroing in on a vendor. Let’s take a look.

Ease of Integration

A third party recommendation tool must be easy to integrate and should require minimal developer intervention and less time to deploy. It avoids the need to employ an exclusive IT team to integrate the software in the existing infrastructure. A recommendation tool should also take minimum time to configure and teams should be able to start showing recommendations in no time.

A great way to supplement this feature is to have proper, easy to understand documentation which covers the detailed step-by-step integration process. Clear documentation can greatly decrease the chances of mistakes during integration and ensure that minimum external support is required.

It is also important that a recommendation tool be compatible with your catalogue management system. Product recommendation tools need to ‘talk’ to the CMS in order to update product data in real-time.

Key Questions to Ask

  • Is the recommendation tool compatible with your existing ecommerce platform?

  • Does the vendor provide integration support and extensive documentation?

  • Do they have an API/tools to readily interact with your catalogue management system?

Reporting

Reporting is a useful tool to understand how recommendations are helping your business grow. A product recommendations tool should provide in-depth analytics to help gauge performance.

Some of the important metrics like clickthroughs, impressions, order conversions can give you valuable insights to track the performance of your recommendation widgets. Metrics like these help you discover the problem areas in your funnel and take corrective measures. These information if represented visually, in the form of graphs or pie charts, can make the process of analysing this data, quicker and easier.

The tool must also have the ability to slice reports by various dimensions such as visitor types, location of visitors, categories, brands etc. which helps segregate the data into separate buckets for easy reporting.

Key Questions to Ask

  • Are the reports simple and easy to understand?

  • What KPIs does the tool track to help you in data analysis?

  • Do they have visual representation of the data?

  • Can you slice reports by meaningful dimensions like categories, locations, brands and more?

Extent of Personalisation

Different vendors define personalisation differently. This makes it important for a buyer to understand the type of personalisation provided by the vendor – i.e. collaborative filtering, content based filtering or hybrid personalisation.

Collaborative filtering maps users to other users with similar interests and recommends products that similar users have viewed or purchased.

Content based filtering takes into consideration a customer’s previous browsing history and recommends products which have been purchased or viewed by the customer.

Hybrid personalisation provides recommendations based on both collaborative filtering and content based personalisation. It’s advanced technology skillfully understands the retailer’s vertical as well as the customer’s intent and accurately provides recommendations.

Collaborative and content-based filtering are not enough to get relevant recommendations. Both of them have limitations (if used individually) which leads to inaccurate recommendations and a lower conversions.

For instance, Unbxd delivers highly relevant recommendations based on hybrid personalisation. It understands the intent of the customer very well and also provides recommendations based on collaborative intelligence. In short, it provides the best of both worlds!

Key Questions to Ask

  • Which personalisation type does the recommendation tool use?

Scalability

Any large or small scale business must consider scalability of the recommendation tool. Ask your vendor if it can handle large data sets at a given point of time and still show accurate recommendations. An efficient recommendation tool must have a scalable strategy to sustain large SKUs, heavy traffic and deliver results instantly and accurately.

Quick Tip

A cloud-based recommendation tool is a better choice as it is highly scalable and capable of working with huge amounts of data.

Key Questions to Ask

  • Will the tool be able to handle large data sets? What kind of stress-testing has been done to understand the limits of the platform?

  • What is the largest amount of SKUs acceptable?

  • What is the average loading time for recommendation widgets?

Merchandising

Any product recommendations tool should support powerful merchandising functions to help merchandisers to specify business rules. Merchandisers frequently use business rules to improve cross-sell and up-sell strategies, enable/disable location based recommendations, specify price ranges and more.

Some vendors provide a single dashboard control for merchandising and reporting. This is particularly useful as merchandisers can analyze the business performance and tailor business rules instantly.

Unbxd offers a multi-featured dashboard which gives quick and easy access to performance metrics and merchandising tools. It helps to automate merchandising and lets it’s clients spend more time on strategic efforts.

Unbxd Recommender - Reports screenshot

Widget Configuration Screenshot

Key Questions to Ask

  • What kind of merchandising functions does the recommendations tool support?

  • Does the tool allow you to also analyse the effect of merchandising campaigns?

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If you’re looking for a great product recommendations tool for your site, do remember to ask these 6 crucial questions before you decide.

I’d love to know if you think there are other areas of concern when deciding upon a recommendations tool – do share it with me in the comments below!

 

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