Don’t Think You Know Me!

In the marketplace of the internet, a search engine can help people get to their preferred item much quicker than by wondering from store to store in the physical world (Bakos, 1997). This is made especially so since many stores should aim to slow consumers down so more attention is paid to more products (Donovan, Rossiter, Marcoolyn & Nesdale, 1994; Gladwell, 1996). Therefore, inside stores, there are more “Ooh, you was about to forget about me weren’t you? Lucky for you I am eye-catching!” and more “You did not want me, but I am on offer!” vibes coming from products as you wonder around to find your target one (Tendai & Crispen, 2009; Stern, 1962). Furthermore, with the internet, some companies have earned less, as they cannot rely so much on consumers choosing their products because they do not know where else to look, cannot be bothered to make more of a journey, etc. (Bakos, 1997). Thus, the internet has made finding the right product easier for consumers.

With it so easy to find what you want on the internet, what can companies do to increase sales? A few decades ago, a little over 50% of in-store purchases were found to be brought on impulse (Kollet & Willett, 1967). Hence, the profitability of stores have depended quite a lot on unplanned purchases.

You may have noticed recommendations of other products offered to you on sites such as, and as you browsed through their selections. Lucky for companies, research has found that these recommendations can generate sales or divert sales to other products (Hinz & Eckert, 2010). However, there exist negative reactions in the world, a well-documented theory, and you can hoover over these following links for the titles (Bastian et al., 2012; Zeelenberg & Pieters, 2004; Shanteau, 2001; Eisenberger, Lynch, Aselage & Rohdieck, 2004; Krebs, Garrett & Konrad, 2006; Matthews & Desmond, 2002; Vecchio, 2000; Lehman, D’Mello & Graesser, 2012).

One bad reaction that troubles the use of recommendations is psychological reactance (Kwon & Chung, 2010), which Miller, Lane, Deatrick, Young and Potts (2007) defined as not liking and accepting something. In this case, people can dislike and reject recommendations. Consumers experiencing psychological reactance is particularly bad as it could make those consumers reject items they have previously wanted to buy (Miller et al., 2007). Why, you may ask. To show the company that they have the freedom not to buy the item (Miller et al., 2007). You may have wanted a crate of pesto to go with your crate of pasta, but after being told what you might like, you may want to virtually smack away the crate of deliciousness and storm off to celebrate your free will. The website did not manipulate you. Or have they?

Nonetheless, there is a method available that may reduce chances of reactance. Kwon and Chung (2010) developed a recommendation system where consumers can customise their what they may see. Kwon and Chung (2010) argued that getting consumers involved to create more relevant recommendations can reduce instances of reactance. Tezinde, Smith and Murphy (2002) too argued that asking consumers whether they want to receive recommendation emails can avoid many negative reactions. Therefore, personalisation of recommendations may help increase sales. All hope is not lost here. seemingly trying to improve their recommendations. A choice to smack away this recommendation?

Copyright © 2013 Thoughts for Creation



  1. Hey you raised some really good points here. I myself have experienced the power of ‘suggested items’ when I look at my bank balance later, a very effective tool by websites indeed. It must be important to note though that although efforts can be made to reduce psychological reactance form personal experience I change what I browse and think I need on a least a weekly basis. I make the arguement that suggestions should only include recent browsing data because arguably if you really needed it you would have bought it by now. This is why Amazon’s wish list is perfect to store information about products until you can afford it which may be months later.

    This way of influencing the consumer must not be percieved to make thing more difficult for them to use them website and pay efficiently. Research shows that if things are felt to be made more difficult when products are ‘in the way’ the consumer will associate negative emotional tags with the product that is making things dificult for them (Hayes et al, 2008). When setting up this kind of system in order to not negatively effect sales it must be percieved by the consumer to be in the ‘background’ and not getting in the way of their goals.

  2. It is certainly interesting that people will actively resist such suggestions and I have definitely done so on occasions! These suggested products almost sound as if we are being encouraged to impulse buy. After all we may well see something that complements the product we are purchasing (like your pasta pesto example) and buy the suggested item on impulse. Furthermore, Dawson and King (2010) did research the idea of impulse buying online and concluded from the results that external cues such as suggested items would result in an increase in sales from impulse buys so perhaps we are still not safe from the power of impulse buys on the internet!

  3. This blog is on a really interesting topic and i enjoyed reading it. I am a current user of Amazon and have noticed that whenever you are looking at a product there are always recommendations of what you should buy to accompany the product. I do realise that some people will actively reject buying products due to the recommendations but i believe that most people will be indifferent to the recommendations, which is shown buy your poll, admittedly it does not have enough votes to be substantial evidence but it does show that people are indifferent to the recommendations. I myself when browsing the internet for products usually know what i want and generally do not take notice of the recommendations. I think a lot of people will tend to be those who pay attention to recommendations and those who are indifferent, however i think that consulting recommendations can lead more often to purchase than active rejection. Senecal and Nantel (2004) found that those who consulted product recommendations selected recommended products twice as often as subjects who did not consult recommendations. Overall thought this blog was very good and raises some good points and more research should go into how people respond to recommendations.

  4. psub06

    I’ve noticed on some websites instead of the typical recommendations they have a section that says ‘other people who bought this product also bought…’ followed by a list of similar items. This I imagine works in a similar way, except that rather than the website suggesting you may want such items, they are sharing with you what others have bought… possibly trying to avoid the angle of suggesting that they know what products you want to buy. Haubl and Trifts (2000) suggested that consumer decision making in online environments has two processes, the first being the initial screening of the products available in order to ascertain which ones are worth considering further, and the second being an in-depth comparison of the products they have selected before making the final purchase decision. They suggest that the recommendations on websites allows consumers to more efficiently screen which products they should buy and consider such a tool as a shopping aid. However I agree with earlier comments to an extent that many people are indifferent to such recommendations as when purchasing off websites most people already know which product they want and are not particularly ‘browsing’ and so the recommendations would probably go unnoticed. A very interesting and thought provoking topic – I know I’ll be noticing the recommendations a lot more now every time I online shop!

  5. It is interesting how websites are able to keep track of the products you’ve viewed and make such suggestions. I do think it has a positive impact for the company because even if the customer doesn’t purchase the recommended item, they become more aware of it. So in future, if the customer needs this item, they know where to purchase it from.

    I think Tesco has an interesting sustem where they are able to record the items you’ve purchased and offer you points and rewards in the form of coupons. This is quite a reliable method of understanding the consumer and making recommendations because Tesco can look are your buying trends over a long period of time. With this, they will be able to see the difference between one off, impulse purchases and products you regularly buy. When it comes to online shopping, they are able then to recommend more accurate products that you might genuinely need. Nice blog!

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