Category: UX advice / Ecommerce guides

Many ecommerce sites offer weak related products – here’s how to do better

When you scroll to the bottom of an ecommerce product page what do you find? In the vast majority of websites, it’s a strip of images of other products, and a message telling you how you might be interested in these. It’s a last attempt to get you to keep browsing if you’ve reached the bottom of the page and haven’t found what you’re interested in.

I’ve been as guilty as anyone in saying they’re a necessary feature of product pages. There was a clear logic behind it: ecommerce websites follow a funnel model, with the danger being that users can run out of options if they get to a product but don’t want to buy it. Related products offer them onwards journeys that could result in a conversion on another product, and save going back to filter through search results.

Of course there’s also the Amazon effect influencing my thoughts. They have long been the masters of the related product carousel, with at least three per product page. As a user, I’ve turned to them many times to find similar items that might be closer to what I need.

Badly implemented related products

However, where Amazon integrate them through the page, on many other sites they are often an after thought, stuck at the bottom of the page. So many sites do it badly, usually for three reasons…

1. They give the user poor titles that don’t explain why the items are relevant to the product your are looking at. Here calling it the very dry ‘related content’:

Poor related products section title

2. They offer a lack of product information, so it’s hard to know if it’s worth clicking, for example not showing the price so you don’t know whether the product will be in your price range:

Poor related products without a price

3. They show really small images, so they just don’t look appealing. For example with a product like snowboards where the design is a very subjective and an important part of the decision:

Poor related product imagery

Perhaps not surprisingly, in a few years of working with one site, I learned that click through rates on related products was in the range of 0.2 – 0.5%. This is poor considering the user is quite far down the funnel and interested on what’s on offer. Yet still we kept them on the page, mainly because we figured they weren’t doing much harm either.

But any element that isn’t being used is just adding clutter to the interface and more things for the user to comprehend. It’s taken me a few years to realise it’s a case of group think: most ecommerce sites have related products because most ecommerce sites have related products.

I’ve started seeing a few really well-designed sites that don’t bother with them. I’ve also realised there are a few ways that related products can be shown that are actually useful.

How to make good use of your related products

If you’re going to put related products on your ecommerce site, then think about how you can do it in a way that actually helps people with their journey. Here are three examples from a selection of ecommerce websites that do something a bit more.

1. Actually explain the relationship of those products to the user—and make it useful for them. 

If it’s a machine recommendation, explain how it has been generated. If you have an editorially curated set of related products you should certainly make this clear—users will appreciate understanding the thought that went into it.

Good related product collection

Good related product set accessories

2. Only show the related products when the user has added something to their cart.

This is a bit like up-selling but users who are already buying are likely to be easier to convince to add something else to their purchase. Thus your related product efforts might be more fruitful focussed at this point.

Related products in basket pop-up

Related products in basket modal overlay

3. Make the related products a useful feature on the page.

You can think outside the box here—in what way can you make this a more helpful part of their shopping journey?

Good related products comparison data

Visual comparison of related products

However you do it, think before bunging another related products module onto your ecommerce site. At the very least you should explain why that relationship is worth considering and the more useful you can make it, the more chance your users will engage.

Last updated on 28 October 2019
Designing Ecommerce Websites 2nd edition book cover

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