Why, in the physical store, do we consistently ignore one of the biggest influences on the decision path? Let’s talk about recommendations.
There should be little debate as to the importance of recommendations in shopper decision-making.
The past decades of decision science research make clear that shoppers will regularly pursue the least-demanding path to purchase. Opinions from peers and perceived experts (expressed in star-based ratings and reviews) take away much of the cognitive stress that leads to decision doubt – and walk-aways.
Recommendations are a major reason why Amazon is so devastatingly effective as a retailer.
We all know the Amazon list:
- Quickly-grasped crowd-sourced ratings.
- Peer reviews.
- Accessories and go-withs.
- Other ideas to buy.
McKinsey’s recently published white paper on personalization (https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/what-shoppers-really-want-from-personalized-marketing) tells us that most-desired type of personalization for shoppers is the “relevant recommendations I wouldn’t have thought of myself.”
Not so in brick and mortar retailing.
First: We live in a retailing world of ever-expanding assortments and ever-more-complex products.
Recommendations help shoppers cut through the clutter. And behavioral science tells us that shoppers with less cognitive clutter are inevitably happier shoppers.
And happier shoppers return more often than those who are less happy.
Think of your last time in the supermarket wine aisle. Unless you’re a hard-core oenophile (or one of my French colleagues), you no doubt experienced an “I-don’t-know-what-to-do” moment.
If you’re like most folks, you went with one of the first brands you recognized (grasping a cognitive life preserver in a sea of over-abundance) or you selected the most elegant, impressive-looking label (at a price point that would prove to your hosts that you weren’t a cheapskate.)
A happy experience?
Second: We’re limiting ourselves when we define recommendations as primarily ratings and reviews. Or ratings and reviews and go-withs.
Go back to the decision science. Go back to the McKinsey definition. Shoppers seek cognitive ease. They seek solutions. They seek answers to questions.
And they seek inspiration in the form of answers to questions yet unspoken.
For those reasons, and more, we must consider solutions – defined here clearly-delivered information on how to use a product to its optimum value – as a key recommendation capability.
Let’s return to the wine aisle.
It’s never just the wine. A great bottle is a wrong bottle when it’s paired with the wrong entrée.
What does it go with? What’s the best pairing, or at least the pairing that will not expose you as a dim-wit when you host an office dinner party?
In this shopping situation, give me not just the bottle, but the menu.
(And I’d appreciate a few thoughts on the table decorations, too.)
Third: In this era of Darwinian industry evolution (not to mention declining brick and mortar traffic), it’s past time to see this critical decision influence in the store.
Tell me what you think.