The usage of AI product recommendations in e-commerce is now a standard practice, but not everyone knows how to make the most of them. Utilizing AI recommendations in the best possible way and enhancing the customer experience takes some fine-tuning. There are ideas and strategies that can optimize the performance of AI tools. Taking advantage of them can be the difference between simply average and amazing results. Here’s what you should pay attention to in any AI implementation journey, in order to uncover the most value for your business.
Before you start
The process should start even before the actual integration goes ahead. Take a closer look at your website and the AI solution you will be using, in order to know how to better plan the implementation.
1. Analyze products on the website
It’s a good practice to analyze product frames on the website. This will help you speed up the whole integration by preparing an appropriate product catalog (the source of e-commerce product stock). Pay attention to information about products that you already have on the website — maybe apart from the title and price there are some special labels like “eco-friendly”; stars with product ratings; special prices for club members, etc. After you define this, you will know what information should be included in the product catalog and so the frame with recommendations will visually fit the website layout.
2. Verify the website structure
You can also examine the website in terms of places to put recommendations. Areas like the home, product or category pages are obvious but perhaps there is a better space to add recommendations such as in the drop-down menu or on a landing page which describes one of the brands you sell? Each website should be analyzed individually to find the places where recommendations can be added to enhance the customer experience. It will also help you to plan the implementation because you will know how many campaigns will need to be prepared.
3. Obtain basic knowledge about the AI solution
You will learn about any platform once you start using it, but it’s important to know earlier about the range of services it offers. You need to go deeper by getting to know the requirements of each AI product offered. That will indicate what you will need to prepare on your side, making it easier to better plan the integration. As a result, you will get an idea of what you should focus on to implement campaigns that you are planning, and what should be provided in the short and long term.
Since you already have a concept in mind of what you want to achieve, all you have to do is take action. Start by carefully planning the steps of the integration and providing events and a product catalog.
4. Add custom attributes in the product catalog
The product catalog is the source of information about your products, which should contain basic data like their titles, images, links and prices. But it’s recommended practice to add more attributes, which will provide more details about each product. Thanks to more detail, you will be able to filter your recommendations in a more advanced way. Those attributes can be universal, like ratings, or strictly connected to a specific industry, like seasons for fashion, or energy consumption in the home appliance industry.
5. Include unavailable products in the product catalog
If your website includes products which are currently unavailable or which can be bought offline only, add them to the product catalog anyway but with the information that they are out of stock. Then such products will not appear in the recommendation’s frame, but you will be able to show recommendations on a product page. In other words, you can recommend similar products which are available, and which may interest your customers and convince them to make a transaction.
6. Provide events as soon as possible
AI models need data to learn, so don’t wait with event integration. Even if you have to enhance the product catalog (see previous point), provide events for better recommendations. The more of them you add, the more accurate the models will be. Another thing which may be helpful is the import of historical transactional events - it will also allow you to get more appropriate results faster.
Preparation is a crucial part of integration but now it’s time to finally put into practice the data you’ve provided and create campaigns. Let's look at how to do just that.
7. Give recommendations at every step of the customer journey
To enhance the customer experience, add recommendations at every step of the customer journey.
- Put personalized recommendations on the home page where customers will be displayed products best suited for them, instead of the same set of products for everybody.
- When customers go to the categories page, show them personalized recommendations tailored to the current category, placed above or below the list of products.
- On the product page, add similar or visually similar recommendations near the main information about the product.
- When a customer adds a product to the cart, add cross-sell recommendations in the pre-cart pop-up to increase the cart value.
- Finally, when customers get to the shopping cart page, add cart recommendations to interest them in additional products.
8. Enrich pages where customers don’t view products
You can also help customers by implementing personalized recommendations on pages where they usually do not see any products, like 404 pages, zero search results, empty carts, pages with campaign rules. This gives you more opportunity to attract customer attention with offers specifically tailored to them.
9. Go beyond the website
So far, we have covered recommendations for most places on the website, but you should go beyond this and use other touchpoints to promote recommended products. Use emails to send personalized offers when the user ends the session, offer complementary products after they buy something, or show similar products based on the last seen item. Send web push messages that link to a landing page with products chosen for the customer. Transfer personalized products to a remarketing platform so that your customers get better suited advertisements.
Once your recommendation campaigns are up and running, you have to know how they perform. Being able to measure progress towards your goals is key. You should know how and what you want to measure, even in the implementation phase, to be sure you have everything needed beforehand.
10. Set your KPI
Decide what you want to check. Revenue? Conversion rate? Average order value? CTR? Be specific in your choice of indicators, limit the number of KPIs you choose to focus on and make sure that you collect all the data needed to count them. Set your goal and regularly check the results so that you will be able to detect any anomaly.
11. Use a control group
How do you know if your KPIs are good? You should be able to compare them, but compare to what? To a different time period? A lot of conditions can influence results. To isolate one factor (recommendations) and measure it, you should create a control group – randomly selected users who will not get any recommendations. Thanks to doing this, you will be able to compare two groups - people who see a recommendation and those who don’t. Based on that, you can check the effectiveness of AI campaigns.
12. Prepare A/B test
If you’re not sure which recommendation will be better on the product page - similar or visual recommendations - or you’re wondering if you should put the product frame higher or lower on the category page, you don’t have to guess. Just prepare an A/B test. After a selected time period, you can check the results of each campaign, including its CTR, revenue, number of transactions and products bought, conversion rate and more. Knowing which campaigns perform better helps you to make the best business decisions.
The tips above will give you a head start but integration is a process, during which you will learn what can be changed, what else you need and what works best for your customers. With your business knowledge and the experience of the integration team who will support you, you will be able to truly elevate the experience of your customers. Remember, that cooperation is the key to success.