Recommendation Programs Need Human Touch

May 01, 2003

By George Anderson

Less than eight percent of online shoppers who are given a product recommendation on a web site actually purchase the item, according to Forrester Research. In fact, only 22 percent find the recommendations to be of value.

DigiMine is a software company that creates online recommendation programs for retailers such as J. Crew and Barnes & Noble. Its chief executive and president, Usama Fayyad, told The New York Times, “The holy grail is to be able to capture all the customer’s interactions in detail and get smarter about what not to recommend. We can recommend very well. Knowing when not to bother someone is much harder.”

The answer according to many is not in the technology, but rather in a greater degree of human involvement.

Retailers, such as, use editors as well as software programs to create recommendation lists for customers. Daniel Blackman, vice president for books, video and music said, “If it is not vetted and monitored by humans and not complemented by actual hand-selling, as we say in the book industry, it doesn’t feel like there is anybody there.”

Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on automated
recommendation programs?

We’ve found, as those referenced in the Times’ article,
that making a purchase for another family member (in our case a number of kid’s
books on Pocahontas) resulted in a recommendation list that bared little resemblance
to our tastes. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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