Online Product Recommendations Miss Mark

February 3, 2010

The quality of product recommendations on retailer websites significantly declined in 2009, according to a new study from ChoiceStream.

Six in 10 Shoppers Get Poor Recommendations

Study results reveal that 59% of shoppers said they received poor quality product recommendations from retailer websites in 2009. This is a substantial 31% increase from the 45% of shoppers who reported poor quality product recommendations in 2008. Response to this question remained virtually flat between 2007, when 46% of shoppers reported poor quality product recommendations, and 2008.


Recommendations Fail to Relate to Search

When asked why their recommendations were poor quality, 54% of shoppers said the recommendations did not relate to their search. Another 49% said the recommendations did not match their preferences, 46% said the recommendations were inappropriate, and 45% said they already owned recommended products. Most of these responses were similar to 2008 results, except for recommendations not relating to search, which jumped almost 23% from a 44% response rate in 2008.


According to ChoiceStream analysis, this decline is due in large part to an influx of new recommendation providers who are now entering the market in an attempt to capitalize on retailers’ demands for recommendations. This has increased the availability of product recommendations but has decreased recommendation quality as new vendors lack the in-market experience to create good quality recommendations.

Music and Entertainment Stores Give Best Recommendations

Although only 21% of shoppers said music and entertainment stores provide “excellent” online recommendations, this rating was enough to place the music/entertainment vertical first in quality of recommendations. Close behind were big box stores (18%), and grocery stores and book stores (18% each). Lagging were shoe, toy and office supply stores, with each vertical having its recommendations rated as “excellent” by only 14% of shoppers.


Data Security Leads Shopper Fears

Consumers are aware of the numerous data breaches experienced by major retailers in recent years. When asked what concerns them about publishers sharing their shopping data with retailers to customize ads, 63% of respondents identified both not wanting to share their information with unfamiliar retailers and concerns that their data might not be secure. Another 39% don’t want retailers to know too much about then, and 32% don’t want retailers to limit the variety of products they are shown.


Consumers Welcome Mobile Product Recommendations

Retailers are advised to offer product recommendations via mobile devices but avoid social networks, according to earlier research from ChoiceStream. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of mobile-commerce shoppers said they would make more purchases from their mobile devices if it were easier to find products from trusted retailers. Thirty-seven percent of smartphone users said they made a purchase with their device in 2009.

However, only 8.5%of respondents who belong to a social networking site reported that they have ever made a purchase while on the site, and only 27% said they have any interest in product recommendations from trusted retailers.

About the Survey: The survey was conducted by MarketTools, Inc. Survey respondents included 525 adult, US internet users across four age categories (18-24, 25-34, 35-49, 50-plus). The respondents were 49 percent male and 51 percent female, and 98% had made at least one online purchase within the previous six months.

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