Most people agree that recommendations are a great way to engage customers and to guide them through their shopping journey, but did you know that retailers experience higher average order values (AOV) by around 12 percent and conversion rate increases in the neighborhood of 17 percent when consumers use product recommendations?

Since recommendations can have such a positive impact on revenue, determining which products to recommend and how to display them has a direct impact on your company’s bottom line.  

There are a variety of best practices that will help you conquer the world of product recommendations and increase sales. To get the most out of your product recommendations, below are four straightforward and actionable tips that you can implement immediately. Follow these tips, and before you know it, your AOV and conversion rates will reach new heights!

#1 Consistency Leads to Familiarity

As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Once consumers engage with product recommendations, their eyes will naturally gravitate to the area of the webpage that housed the first recommendation they clicked. If subsequent recommendations are not where the customer expects them, engagement will fall significantly.

Developing this placement familiarity and consistency is critical. Ideally, all product recommendations remain fixed in a specific location throughout the customers’ shopping journey.

Bonus tip: Recommendations perform best on the right rail of a product detail page. This is because site visitors naturally scan from left to right, leaving recommendations as the last thing they view. Recommendations that fall “below the fold” tend to deliver poor click-through results.

#2 Styling Draws Attention

Consistency and placement alone do not guarantee recommendation success. Another element to consider is style. To make recommendations stand out, use styling that is distinct from the rest of the page in order to draw subtle attention to them. The exact style should vary depending on the type of product.

When recommending apparel, a simple product image is typically enough. Other product types, such as household goods, perform better with a descriptive title and price accompanying the image.

Bonus tip: With recommendations, less is more. The ideal number of similar product recommendations is four. If including accessories or cross-selling, five or six products can be used.

#3 Labeling Honestly Builds Trust

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The best advice here is the simplest: label recommendations properly and honestly. For example, if your recommendation algorithms deliver most popular or best-selling items, label them as “Best Sellers” or “Community Favorites.” Do not imply that a recommendation is personalized to each shopper when it clearly is not. Doing so will disengage the consumer and lessen the trust he or she has in future recommendations.

Bonus Tip: If you can’t personalize for an individual’s name, use the word “you” in general terms such as, “You May Also Like.”

#4 Relevance Reigns Supreme

No matter how beautiful or consistent your recommendations are, relevancy is still the number one way to engage customers. Without relevance, recommendations distract customers and deter them from using future recommendations in a meaningful way.

To balance the need for relevance with your need to promote specific items, display “Top Sellers” or “Featured Items” on the top levels of the site. Once consumers navigate to product-specific pages, you can provide more personalized recommendations that fit the consumer’s shopping desires based on current behavior rather than past profile or purchasing history.

Bonus Tip: To make recommendations as relevant as possible, go beyond past purchase history and profile data. Look for in-the-moment intent indicators such as time spent on a particular item (dwell time), the consumers’ click path and the words they enter in the search box.

Following these straightforward tips will lead to increased customer engagement, and in return, increased AOV and conversion rates. With the holiday season just around the corner, don’t wait to implement these strategies -- the more customers engage with your website now, the more likely they are to return for additional purchases.

Editor's Note: For more hints on how to improve your e-Commerce, why not read Five Strategies to Increase Product Visibility in an Oversaturated Market by Diane Buzzeo