In order to personalize well, a system must recognize and track user characteristics that enable more valuable merchandising. Systems can gather information about users either explicitly or implicitly.
- An explicit setting is one in which the user actually indicates what he or she prefers.
- An implicit setting is driven by user behavior and trends in that behavior, such as searching, clicking, and purchasing.
The trick to effective personalization is in closing the gap between the two settings in order to provide a great user experience. Like many of its peers in eCommerce, Amazon uses both implicit and explicit personalization to determine what a user sees. In this blog entry, we’ll explore avariety of ways Amazon has effectively closed this gap between implicit and explicit personalization.
Keeping it transparent
77% of respondents in Janrain’s 2013 Online Personal Experience Study “would trust businesses more if they explained how they’re using personal information to improve their online experience.” It’s not a secret that there’s a growing sense of uncertainty around the ethics of tech companies keeping tabs on user behaviors as technology advances (re: Facebook’s Messenger App). In addition, this LinkedIn article posted last week took it as far as to compare Amazon’s shopping experience as being “similar to what Tom Cruise experienced in Minority Report.” While their methods are nearly as magical, it’s becomes less creepy when you realize that Amazon keeps things transparent by letting users know exactly why a product is being recommended to them and how that information is obtained.
Allowing users to modify their browsing history
While one of the first steps to creating a personalized user experience is to keep track of users’ implicit activity on your site, it’s even more critical to allow your users to not only see their past interactions but to be able to modify them as well.
An Amazon user has the ability to view and manipulate his browsing history with options to delete all viewed items, delete one item at a time, or even to turn off browsing history entirely. While a user’s browsing history is an implicit action picked up by Amazon to provide personalized product recommendations, the user is able to explicitly define specific products that should not inform the site’s personalized recommendations.
Helping users help themselves
Amazon’s Recommended for You page features product recommendations based on items one has ordered. The user may further personalize recommendations by checking off whether she already owns a product or is just not interested. This explicit action on the part of the user helps Amazon further tailor its recommendations.
Well, let’s say the user recently purchased a DVD as a gift.
He’ll now be getting recommendations based on a movie that he may have never watched. Amazon allows users to modify recommendations in two different places in order to mitigate the potential for irrelevant suggestions. One is by clicking the “Fix This” link next to the reason for the recommendation.
In the overlay that appears, the user can edit his purchases by selecting “This was a gift”. Alternatively, maybe the user purchased the movie and just didn’t like it. Not only can the user rate this item here, but he could simply opt to select “Don’t use for recommendations.”
Similarly, on the The Improve Your Recommendations page a user can rate purchases, identify gifts, and/or remove purchases from the list that informs recommendations, as well as undo any modifications previously applied.