Recommendations are highly sought after, hugely successful and inherently limited. Limited by just knowing one or two items in a shopping cart, limited by being specific to one store’s purchase history, limited in not having a checkbox for chemistry, affinity, bias. So, most companies turn to just showing more. Show that camera shopper a variety of similar products and one is bound to hit… Of course there’s only a hit if the product was a fit in the first place because, in recommendations, quality > quantity.
The more irrelevant suggestions are, the less people use them.
In the world of online dating, most services tout some sort of recommendations / daily match approach to take the searching effort of the equation. On its face it’s a great idea for keeping people engaged and exposing profiles that may not otherwise stumble across each other. Problem is, most sites want to give people more choices and commit to big numbers of guaranteed matches rather than good fits. They’re not alone.
As an avid [although very much still aspiring] photographer, I do a lot of research and comparison of lenses and photo gear. Most of the shopping sites in the process love to tell me other things to look at… loads of them. But, even the ones who sold me a body, a lens or a tripod seem to be oblivious to that fact and, at best show me a competitive model of the same thing. Sure there’s a difference between the two but if I just bought one, a filter or hood for it is far more fitting.
Instead of trying to deliver a lot, focus on delivering what really fits.
Relevant recommendations tell the customer two essential things: that what you’re showing may actually be right for them and that you really do get what they have, need, and might just want. In fact, done right a recommendation is not an up-sell, it’s a completion… the thing that should almost just be included (like the cable that should have been in the box).
Yes, at times there will still be nothing that makes them jump, and sure, there’s less to get them to go explore as a result. But that’s solved with a simple “more from <xyz> category” link which has the added benefit of saving face, setting the expectation and telling the customer you’re not just spewing junk their way.