Albert Einstein’s assertion that “imagination is more important than knowledge” an assertion that can be aptly applied to the retail business, even though much of what we do tends to be based on experience and knowledge.

Fact-based decisions are great, yet deep down we know that if we never take a creative risk we won’t grow and reap the rewards from that growth. In retail and digital marketing, there is a foundational shift happening; we are moving from aspirational concepts like stories dictated by the brand to shopper centric stories created by the customer for the customer. As a strategist in our Retail Practice group, I partner with global retailers and have seen what works and what doesn’t, and have gained valuable insights by working together with retailers and brands to find the optimal solution.

Let’s explore what that means in the context of intelligent recommendations:

Don’t distract, interact
Intelligent recommendations are not intended to be the centerpiece of your brand story. But, they ARE intended to enrich and expedite your shoppers’ experience. Placing too much emphasis on product recommendations can distract the shopper from the purchase flow of your site, which unnecessarily increases cart abandonment and time on site. If you place too little emphasis on product recommendations, you risk missing out on timely conversions, or exposing the right product at the right time to the right person.

Finding the balance means allowing your shoppers to interact with your site in a beneficial yet unobtrusive way so they can find what they want and make a purchase with minimal hassle.

When it comes to back-of-house operations, it is also easy to get distracted. At Salesforce, we believe there is value in every milestone of the customer journey. Getting tunnel vision and focusing too much on recommendations on the product detail page neglects the opportunity that lives in commonly overlooked customer interactions. By interacting with the technology rather than trying to dictate its every move, you can better spend your time expanding recommendations out to the order status page, store locator pages, and all the other pages where you might unlock hidden growth potential. This exposes your customers to new products they might otherwise overlook by allowing them to interact with your brand so they can write their own story.

Crawl. Walk. Run.
Start with the basic rule setup for each recommendation type: homepage, category page, cart, other global. First, test the new experience against the current one to determine if there is a business benefit. Then, create new versions of each rule-set separately with slightly different configurations than the previous version. Test, deploy winner, repeat. We recommend conducting these tests page by page, with a new test starting every 2-5 months.

Black Diamond Equipment recently adopted Commerce Cloud Einstein recommendations. They tested our technology against a paid vendor using only one rule – hide replacement parts. We won the test and they haven’t looked back since!

Once you go through three to five iterations per rule-set, you’ll find the optimal rule-set for each recommendation location on your site. Then, establish your benchmarks and revisit quarterly to make sure everything is performing as expected, or to update your benchmarking calculations if necessary.

Think differently
Commerce Cloud Einstein, our predictive intelligence engine that powers product recommendations, is  embedded in the commerce platform. Once you get the hang of it in one area, it is quick and easy to monetize various corners of customer experience. Do you have great order status, store locator and account pages? Why not place your best selling products in a banner targeted by device, region and individual? They update automatically and often uncover seemingly counterintuitive opportunities. Competition has never been more fierce. The time is now to innovate. After all, as Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”