Here’s a prediction: Recommendations will rule commerce in the 21st century.
The reason? One word. Customization.
The days of buying mass-produced, cookie-cutter type products are over. The world is entering a new era, where people want scarcity. They don’t want what their neighbors have. What’s more is that the Internet, along with globalization, is making customized products not any more expensive than what’s offered off-the-rack. The convergence of these forces is opening up a whole new market for customized products. In the future, almost everything you have will be customized, and made just for you, and only you. One day your great granddaughter is going to ask you why we all took the same aspirin, and not the genetically modified for each person aspirin that she will take.
But the customization of products does come with some real problems - for both buyers and sellers. The biggest problem associated with buying customized goods is the sheer amount of options that are thrown at the buyers. Most people don’t actually know what they need. Since the average buyer is not an expert designer, negotiating the near bottomless pit of decisions overwhelms him until he either a) finally succumbs to the paradox of choice, or b) creates something so ugly or dysfunctional that he can’t even use it. For sellers, the biggest problem is becoming commoditized when so much of the design is handed over to the buyers. How does one compete in a world where his product configurator is just like the next guy’s?
A recommendation is the single solution to both of these problems. A personalized recommendation from a seller can help the buyer make the decisions needed to customize his product appropriately. In addition, a recommendation allows the seller to display his expertise and set himself apart from the rest of the field. After all, the competition can copy the look and feel of a storefront or web interface, and they can sell the same materials, even at a cheaper price. But, the competition simply cannot copy the timely knowledge and expertise that is inside a personalized recommendation.
The recommendation is the intersection of this discovery (buyers) and expertise (sellers), two cornerstones of commerce and trade. As customized products become more ubiquitous, and replace mass-produced products this century, the recommendation is going to be king.