Combinatory recommendations build consumer trust and drive purchase decisions

Most of us know very little about the categories we regularly buy from. And that makes us a poor judge of which two or more products go together.

That’s where experts come in.

Throughout human history, we’ve relied on the guidance of people who we see as more knowledgeable than us to give us the details we need.

And sales is no different.

A recent study published in the Journal of Marketing Research by Jennifer K. D’Angelo and Francesca Valsesia sheds light on the impact of combinatory recommendations and how they change the perception of the person making the recommendation and the effect they have on consumer behaviour.

The study shows that getting a recommendation from someone seen as an expert to buy things that ‘go together’ can sway over consumer behavior. The trust and expertise associated with these recommendations affect purchase decisions and increased customer satisfaction.

Why it matters?

Combinatory recommendations matter because they tap into the trust and expertise associated with the individuals making them.

The study reveals that when individuals, such as sale staff, waiters, or influencers suggest combining two products for purchase or use, they are perceived as experts in the respective product category. Whether the combination is encouraged or discouraged, the credibility of these individuals increases, leading consumers to be more inclined to follow their recommendations.

Interestingly, the more explicit the combinatory recommendation the stronger its impact.

This ‘expert influence’ extends regardless of whether someone was actively seeking advice or if the combination applies to other products in the category.

By leveraging combinatory recommendations through personalised communication, follow-up suggestions, and influencer collaborations, businesses can tap into this powerful tool to drive sales and enhance their brand’s influence.

Key takeaways:

  • Enhanced Credibility: Combinatory recommendations position individuals as experts in their respective fields, leading to increased credibility and trust among consumers.
  • Influential Decision-Making: Consumers are more likely to follow combinatory recommendations, resulting in higher chances of making a purchase or engaging with the suggested products.
  • Expertise through Compatibility: Individuals who can recommend multiple compatible products demonstrate a higher ability to understand product interactions, signaling even greater expertise.
  • Limits of Recommendations: While combinatory recommendations hold influence, there may be an upper boundary to the number of products consumers find believable for joint consumption, depending on the product category. The researchers haven’t identified this limit yet.
  • AI and Algorithm Considerations: Consumers may exhibit resistance to nonhuman advisors, perceiving them as less credible sources. Awareness of the recommendation’s origin, whether from artificial intelligence or an algorithm, may affect consumer trust.

My favourite quote

My favourite quote about the research is from a Q&A with the researchers. You can read it here.

Consumers limit themselves less when making choices that are intended to be consumed individually. This led us to suspect that many consumers have difficulty combining things together. The know-how to combine things requires some higher level of expertise. 

  • Link to the research published in the Journal of Marketing.
  • Link to the Press Release about the research.

About the Author

Hi! I’m Aliyar.

When your marketing investments aren’t driving growth, ping me