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While browsing ecommerce sites recently I noticed several examples of retailers that use questionnaires as a way of delivering product recommendations.
It’s not an approach you see that often, as sites more commonly recommend products using features such as ‘Customers who bought this product also bought’ or ‘Popular products’.
But that doesn’t mean questionnaires aren’t an effective tool. In theory, asking customers for their preferences adds an element of personalisation to the shopping experience and makes the recommendations feel more relevant.
This could in turn lead to higher conversions as the customer feels more confident about their product choice.
But does it work in practice? To find out, I tried out product questionnaires on three very different retail sites...
Burton’s Board Finder tool is an excellent example of a company using a questionnaire to deliver personalised product recommendations.
It asks for your vital statistics including height and weight, level of ability, and your preferences for speed, flex and board design. The results are then presented with percentage rating based on how well the board matches your answers.
To further personalise the experience, Burton explains why it has made these recommendations and the difference between each style of board. There’s even a short video clip to further illustrate the attributes of each design.
Board Finder is a useful tool for helping people who are new to snowboarding discover the differences between styles, and is a good way of trying to recreate at least part of the in-store shopping experience.
However, as I’m not a snowboarder and haven’t actually purchased anything from the site I can’t vouch for the accuracy of its recommendations.
It’s since taken more of a backseat as the company has adopted a more traditional ecommerce layout, but it is still available form the homepage under the ‘Advice’ tab.
There are five steps in the process, including questions about your height, weight and body shape, then your preferences on the type of shoes you wear and how you like jeans to fit.
You are then given recommendations for jeans that suit your style, with a percentage rating for the product’s ‘Affinity’.
I previously reviewed SoJeans and must admit that I wasn’t convinced by the jeans that it recommended to me, however it’s still a good example of an ecommerce site attempting to make the purchase journey easier by offering tailored product recommendations.
That said, there are also some fairly glaring errors within the tool that need fixing.
Most noticeably the height and weight scales don’t make any sense (the height scale starts at 6ft 1in and bizarrely goes up to 205), there are a few spelling errors and even some French instructions thrown in for good measure.
So though this isn’t a perfect example of using a survey to help with product discovery, it’s still worth checking out for inspiration.
Morrisons Wine Cellar
Morrisons has created an excellent recommendation tool for its new Wine Cellar site, which can either be completed as a normal questionnaire or using an interactive video.
The video is an excellent feature as it explains why the three questions are relevant and how the process works. In fact I’ve previously praised the site’s use of video in this post highlighting different ways of using product videos in ecommerce.
At the end of the questionnaire you’re given a numerical taste profile and a description of the types of wines you will probably like alongside the product recommendations.
Overall the Morrisons site is an excellent example of how questionnaires can be used to offer tailored recommendations, as it gives loads of information explaining how the process works as well as delivering product suggestions.
Of the three examples I’ve cited, I think that Morrisons is the most successful example, partly due to the execution but also the type of products it sells.
It’s easier to tailor wine recommendations, as you can also give the shopper a huge amount of information about the flavour and type of food it goes with.
The customer is then likely to be fairly accepting of the product when they receive it, (unless it’s corked) as they were fully informed when making the decision.
But a fashion retailer could give a customer all the information humanly possible but they will still send the item back if it doesn’t fit properly. That proved to be true when I ordered jeans from SoJeans after using So Select but returned them as they weren’t quite right.
However, I still think there’s a place for product questionnaires in ecommerce as long as consumers are made aware of the limitations.
Using a percentage rating and suggesting that the customer is 100% matched to a particular product risks undermining their trust in the tool if it turns out the clothes don’t fit, which was exactly my experience.
Morrisons’ approach of telling customers that they are better suited to a particular type of product and giving relatively broad recommendations seems more sensible, as it points the shopper in the right direction without making the final purchase decision for them.