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What Is An Online Recommendation Engine?

An online recommendation engine analyzes available user data to generate suggestions for products that customers may also be interested in. Companies use these engines to promote new products or services and to keep existing customers coming back to them. Streaming services and online shopping services provide excellent examples of the use of these engines.

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Why Is It Important to Have a Good Online Recommendation Engine?

Good recommendation systems are an important way to guarantee that a customer will continue using your service. It has been shown that services and websites with accurate and dynamic recommendation systems are more successful in customer preservation. Accurate recommendation engines create positive feedback and are profitable to both vendors and consumers. The best engines are those that learn quickly and adapt to the intricacies of different customers’ changing preferences.

What Internal Data Should I Have for a Good Online Recommendation Engine?

The most prevalent data used in recommendation engines are past choices and preferences of customers. Recommendation engines cross-reference this data with that of users that they categorized as similar to the first user.

There are two recommendation types: content-based filtering and collaborative filtering. Content-based filtering compare products to a user’s past transaction, shopping, and viewing history. Collaborative filtering, in contrast, provides recommendations based on comparisons between users with similar online behavior. This behavior includes search history as well as purchases.

In the end, a good recommendation system requires a detailed database of all actions performed by customers. However, it must also take care to properly categorize and sort products in order to suggest similar ones to customers.

What External Data is Essential for a Good Engine?

Both content-based and collaborative filtering engines mostly utilize internal data, although external data that could prove very useful could include ratings and feedback of certain products from other companies and vendors whose products are similar to yours.

What External Data May Prove Useful for a Good Engine?

Analysis of external events such as weather, important social or cultural events, and economic or political crises may be beneficial to an efficient recommendation system.

What Are the Main Challenges of This Use Case?

The first and most obvious challenge for recommendation engines is the need for a lot of consumer data, creating a sort of Catch-22: services accumulate customers by having good recommendation algorithms, yet it is difficult to create good algorithms before gaining a multitude of customers.

Additional challenges include changing user preferences over time and user preferences which are seemingly not connected (such as a diverse and unpredictable taste in literature or music).

Interesting Case Studies and Blogs to Look Into

Thrillist: The Netflix Prize: How a $1 Million Contest Changed Binge-Watching Forever
Recombee Blog: Machine Learning for Recommender systems — Part 1 (algorithms, evaluation and cold start)

Tangible Examples of Impact

Publishers are also implementing AI-powered content recommendation widgets that can identify related content to surface to readers, and even personalise those recommendations based on readers’ browsing habits.

15 examples of artificial intelligence in marketing

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