Bad side of eCommerce recommendation systems: Overemphasis on hits and blockbusters

May 14, 2009

Recommender systems like those at Amazon, Netflix, and Apple's iTune Store work against niche products and tend to direct customers to blockbuster hits, according to the Management Insights feature in the current issue of Management Science, the flagship journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®).

Management Insights, a regular feature of the journal, is a digest of important research in business, management, operations research, and management science. It appears in every issue of the monthly journal.

"Blockbuster Culture's Next Rise or Fall: The Impact of Recommender Systems on Sales Diversity" is by Daniel Fleder and Kartik Hosanagar of the Wharton School.

The last ten years have seen an extraordinary increase in the number of products available. This trend is part of the "long tail" phenomenon, and many believe that it could amount to a cultural shift from hit to niche goods.

A difficulty that arises, however, is how consumers will find their ideal, niche products among myriad choices. Recommender systems are one solution. These systems use data on purchases and user profiles to identify which products are best suited to each user.

Although recommenders have been assumed to diversify choice, the authors show why some systems may do the opposite. Recommenders can create self-reinforcing cycles in which popular items are recommended more, recommended items are purchased more, purchased items are recommended even more, and so on. These cycles reduce diversity. Consequently, consumers and niche producers may be underserved if there exist better product matches outside of the hits, and retailers may find that they offer the right assortment but their recommender system may be promoting a narrow range of products.

The authors recommend that managers consider design modifications to ensure that their recommender system limits these popularity effects and promotes exploration.
-end-
The current issue of Management Insights is available at http://mansci.journal.informs.org/cgi/reprint/55/5/iv. The full papers associated with the Insights are available to Management Science subscribers. Individual papers can be purchased at http://institutions.informs.org. Additional issues of Management Insights can be accessed at http://www.informs.org/site/ManSci/index.php?c=11&kat=Management+Insights.

The other Insights in the current issue are:INFORMS journals are strongly cited in Journal Citation Reports, an industry source. In the JCR subject category "operations research and management science," Management Science ranked in the top 10 along with two other INFORMS journals.

The special MBA issue published by BusinessWeek includes Management Science and three other INFORMS journals in its list of 20 top academic journals that are used to evaluate business school programs. Financial Times includes Management Science and four other INFORMS journals in its list of academic journals used to evaluate MBA programs.

About INFORMS

The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) is an international scientific society with 10,000 members, including Nobel Prize laureates, dedicated to applying scientific methods to help improve decision-making, management, and operations. Members of INFORMS work in business, government, and academia. They are represented in fields as diverse as airlines, health care, law enforcement, the military, financial engineering, and telecommunications. The INFORMS website is www.informs.org. More information about operations research is at www.scienceofbetter.org.

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences

Related Consumers Articles from Brightsurf:

When consumers trust AI recommendations--or resist them
The key factor in deciding how to incorporate AI recommenders is whether consumers are focused on the functional and practical aspects of a product (its utilitarian value) or on the experiential and sensory aspects of a product (its hedonic value).

Do consumers enjoy events more when commenting on them?
Generating content increases people's enjoyment of positive experiences.

Why consumers think pretty food is healthier
People tend to think that pretty-looking food is healthier (e.g., more nutrients, less fat) and more natural (e.g., purer, less processed) than ugly-looking versions of the same food.

How consumers responded to COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for laying out the different threats that consumers face, and that consumers must prepare themselves for a constantly shifting landscape moving forward.

Is less more? How consumers view sustainability claims
Communicating a product's reduced negative attribute might have unintended consequences if consumers approach it with the wrong mindset.

In the sharing economy, consumers see themselves as helpers
Whether you use a taxi or a rideshare app like Uber, you're still going to get a driver who will take you to your destination.

Helping consumers in a crisis
A new study shows that the central bank tool known as quantitative easing helped consumers substantially during the last big economic downturn -- a finding with clear relevance for today's pandemic-hit economy.

'Locally grown' broccoli looks, tastes better to consumers
In tests, consumers in upstate New York were willing to pay more for broccoli grown in New York when they knew where it came from, Cornell University researchers found.

Should patients be considered consumers?
No, and doing so can undermine efforts to promote patient-centered health care, write three Hastings Center scholars in the March issue of Health Affairs.

Consumers choose smartphones mostly because of their appearance
The more attractive the image and design of the telephone, the stronger the emotional relationship that consumers are going to have with the product, which is a clear influence on their purchasing decision.

Read More: Consumers News and Consumers Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.