Recommendations Solutions – How Important Are They for Web Services?
Before the advent of the Internet, people used to get their tips and recommendations about various items and sources largely from family members, friends, trusted network and experts. With the proliferation of online services with the overwhelming amount of content and items, information overload has become a critical issue. The large amount of availability of choices, while beneficial, also creates problems for the users.
The various problems a user encounters due to information overload include time wasted in search for appropriate selection, making poor choice while there are better options available and difficulties in arriving at the right choice. Recommender systems are the tools that are aimed at alleviating the information overload related issues. Today, most users largely depend on the web service itself to provide recommendations of the items that would arguably reflect users’ personal choices. The concept of recommendations solutions or recommender systems (RS) is not new. Some early websites have used them actively and over time they have become a necessary element and an integral part of any large to medium e-commerce, social networking sites and web services.
Recommendations solutions are meant to produce a list of items or products to website users based on user’s profile, online behavior, item’s profile, click-through and various other attributes. There is a fundamental difference between a search engine and a recommender system. When the user knows or at least can guess what keywords or terms needed to apply in order to find an item, a document or a product the person is looking for, she uses a search engine. In the case of a recommender system, the list of recommendations is generated for items, documents, products, etc. without an explicit search conducted by the user.
From user’s perspective, this is wonderful, because it allows the user to discover new content corresponding to her taste that she was not aware of earlier. By providing relevant but new choices, recommender systems make user interaction with the sites interesting and significantly enrich user’s experience. Web services implement recommendations solution for multiple reasons.
Firstly, an e-commerce site would like to sell more products, or services and RS helps a site to increase its conversion rate by transforming more visitors of the site to buyers.
Secondly, RS contributes to cross selling – sale of more types of products or services to the buyer. For example, an e-commerce site of electronic products may provide the buyer of a camera a precise recomme