Providing web shoppers with bad quality recommendations could be worse than offering no recommendations at all, according to a new survey.

Conducted by online research provider MarketTools, the study claims four in ten shoppers are less willing to return to sites that suggest non-personalised products or items they already own.

Of the 811 shoppers it surveyed, 46% said they had been provided with bad recommendations in the past.

The study (pdf) also found:

  • The negative impact of poor recommendations was largest for frequent and high-spending customers. For example, 69% of shoppers that had spent over $1,000 online in the last six months said they were more likely to make purchases at sites that offered personalised suggestions.
  • 43% defined poor recommendations as products they had already purchased, while 41% cited “inappropriate” suggestions, such as handbags for men. 37% were most irked by products that didn’t match their preferences.
  • 39% were less willing to return to sites that provided poor quality recommendations, while 35% were less willing to buy items from those etailers.

Toffer Winslow, EVP of Sales and Marketing at ChoiceStream, which sponsored the survey, said: 

“Personalised recommendations are table stakes in today’s competitive e-commerce environment. But retailers that provide customers with poor quality recommendations are putting their brand and revenue at risk.

“Online shoppers increasingly expect help with making selections, and retailers that provide high quality guidance are rewarded with higher consumer spending and more frequent visits.”