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Recommend Products on a Home Page

In this lesson, you will learn effective techniques to recommend products on a Home Page.
The home page of any website is a great place to use recommendations. There are so many possibilities, you may want to test multiple approaches of using recommendations on this page. It can be helpful to think about two broad segments of users who will visit your home page and what they might be interested in:
* **New Customers** may be learning about your brand for the first time. They might be interested to see what other people buying, which articles have been read the most in the last day, and other algorithms based on what other visitors have done on your site. * **Returning Customers** might want to be reminded what they looked at last time, products belonging their favorite categories, or other items that you can surface to them based on their own prior actions on your site.
Our goal for this lesson is to recommend items that users have recently viewed on our site’s homepage. This will allow shoppers to quickly return to items they have previously considered purchasing.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to:
  1. do this

Prerequisites

You should have already completed the lessons in .
Get started by following these steps:
  1. Click the
    Activities
    tab on the top navigation bar to see a list of existing Activities.
  2. Click
    + Create Activity
    , then choose
    Recommendations
    from the drop-down menu that appears, to create a new Recommendations Activity.
  3. Here you have the choice of selecting a channel for the activity (Web, Mobile, Email or API), a choice of using the Visual Experience Composer or Form-Based Experience Composer, a choice of Workspace and can enter the Activity URL. Leave the default selections of
    Web
    and
    Visual
    Experience Composer. Enter the following URL for your Activity:
  4. Click
    Next
    to create the activity.

Using the Visual Experience Composer

You will now see the homepage of our site. The Visual Experience Composer (VEC) allows you to quickly select the areas of our site that we want to modify, then change the content that appears in those areas.
By default, you enter the VEC in the
Compose
mode. In this mode, clicking page content allows you to select an area to insert recommendations into the page. If you need to use the page’s navigation to expose the area of the page where recommendation should be inserted, you’ll want to switch to the
Browse
mode, which allows you to interact with page elements, before switching back to
Compose
. Additional information about the VEC is available in the Target help documentation at:
We want to replace static content on our homepage with our Recently Viewed Items, so we need to use the VEC to identify the area of our site where we want recommendations to display.
  1. Scroll the homepage so that you see the
    Featured Products
    section:
  2. Mouseover a single product image and note that the HTML container containing that item is highlighted. Then, click the item. Note that you have the following options:
  3. Click
    Expand Selection
    and observe that the container element size is increased to include all of the items.
  4. Experiment with clicking containers and then Expand Selection until you have selected a container which contains only the horizontal items and no other page content. Then, click
    Replace w/Recommendations
    .
  5. In order to narrow down the list of available recommendations, you will be asked to identify the type of page this is. Select
    Home Page
    from the dropdown list that appears:

Selecting a Criteria

After selecting a Page Type, you are taken to select a Criteria.
Criteria are sets of rules that tell Target Recommendations how to choose the items to be recommended from the items in your catalog. Let’s start by choosing a built-in Criteria to see how it works; later, we’ll return to see how to create our own Criteria.
Type
recently viewed
in the Search box, find the Criteria labeled
Recently Viewed Items
and select the criteria by clicking anywhere in the card.
You can click the
Info
icon to view more information about the Criteria or click the
Edit
(pencil) icon to modify the criteria. We will practice customizing Criteria in
Section 4
. For now, just click the
Next
button in the upper right-hand corner.

Selecting a Design

After selecting a Criteria, you are taken to choose a Design.
A Design is an HTML or JSON template that tells Target Recommendations how to format its response containing recommended products.
Select the
WeRetail 4 x 1 Design
criteria by clicking anywhere on the card.
We will explore customizing Designs in
Section 5
. For now, just click the
Next
button in the upper right-hand corner.

Selecting Collections and Promotions

You now have the option to choose a
Collection
– recall that we examined the available Collections earlier. Leave the default “
All Collections
” option selected.
You can also set up
Front Promotions
and
Back Promotions
here. Front Promotions allow you to set up a list of items you want to promote in front of any algorithmic results; Back Promotions allow you to set up a list of items you want to promote behind any algorithmic results. Toggle the
Front Promotions
slider to see the available options. Note that you can control the number of slots allocated to promotions, time-bound promotions, and promote either a list of IDs, a collection, or results of a filtering rule. After exploring the options,
turn Front Promotions off
again, then click
Save
in the upper right-hand corner.
Tip:
Promotions are useful for time-limited marketing campaigns: for example, when you want to promote a certain category or brand of items even when it is not algorithmically “best” for a customer, or during new product releases, where algorithms based on historical data will not recommend a brand new product until traffic related to that product is present.
Note now that you have selected a Criteria and Design, the site layout updates to show sample products inserted into your page.
Tip:
The products inserted here are randomly selected illustrative examples and are not necessarily representative of the products that will appear on this page on your live site.
Click
Next
in the upper right-hand corner to continue.

Using the Activity Diagram

You are now viewing an Activity diagram. You may already be familiar with the Activity diagram concept from creating A/B Test or Experience Targeting activities. For Recommendations activities, the Activity diagram displays your Recommendations activity’s selected
Location
(i.e., URL),
Audience
,
Collection
,
Criteria
, and
Design
. It allows you to set up an A/B test between multiple Criteria or Designs and set up a control group receiving no recommendations.
We previously configured the Location, Collection, Criteria and Design.
We need to change the
Audience
so that each lab user sees the only the Recommendations he or she has configured. Click the
menu icon
on the
All Visitors audience
, then select
Replace Audience
.
Type
YOURNUMBER
into the search box, select the
“Lab User YOURNUMBER”
audience, and click
Done
.
The Audience in the diagram updates to reflect your selection. We’ll further explore using Audiences in
Lesson 3.3.
For the purposes of this lab, we want all visitors to see the Recently Viewed Items recommendation, so adjust the Control Group percentage from the default setting of 10 to 0, then click
Next
in the upper right-hand corner to continue.

Goals and Settings

If you have previously created an A/B Test or Experience Targeting activity, you should be familiar with the Goals and Settings page. For Recommendations activities, generally the most important settings to be aware of are the
Reporting Source
and
Goal Metric
.
Your
Reporting Source
specifies whether the success of your Recommendations activity should be measured via Adobe Analytics conversion data or Adobe Target conversion data. The default value of Adobe Target is selected and cannot be changed as we have not configured Adobe Analytics for this lab.
Your
Goal Metric
specifies how Adobe Target should measure lift (i.e. success) for this Recommendations activity. Note that Conversion, Revenue and Engagement metrics are available. For this lab, select
Conversion
. Note the actions available as proxy metrics for Conversion. Choose
Clicked on recommendation
as your Goal Metric, then click
Save & Close
in the upper right-hand corner.
Name your Activity
YOURNUMBER - Homepage Recently Viewed Items
, then click
Save & Close
.

Exercise 3.2 - Launch your Activity

Now that you have saved your activity, let’s check to make sure it’s working correctly before it goes live on our site.

Checking the Criteria Status

First, observe that in the upper-right hand corner that the activity’s status is listed as
Inactive
. This means our activity is not yet visible on our site. Before we change the activity’s status to Active, we should make sure that recommendations are available and displayed correctly.
Scroll down to view the Activity Diagram. Observe that underneath the Criteria, the
Results Ready
status is listed:
This means that recommendations are available. The Recently Viewed Items criteria will always have results ready since it is simply based on the user’s browsing behavior, but other algorithms, like People Who Viewed This, Viewed That, take some time to get ready as results are computed. For these algorithms, the status will first show as “Results Not Ready”.
Since the Results Ready status is displayed, we can proceed to quality assurance of our activity.
Tip:
Getting results ready can take as little as 15 minutes for simple algorithms like Top Sellers and Top Viewed or can take several hours for advanced algorithms if you have a large catalog size, high site traffic (many views/purchases), or have selected a long lookback window (2 days’ data will take less time to process than 60 days’ data.)

Activity QA Testing

Before we start QA, let’s ensure that we have some recently viewed items to test against. Use the top navigation to open the
Products
page (
http://localhost:4503/content/we-retail/us/en/products.html
) and click on a few products that interest you:
Return to your
Activity Overview
in Adobe Target, scroll to the top of the page and find the
Activity QA
link under the Activity Location.
Click the link and scroll to observe that two QA URLs are provided:
  1. A QA link with no recommendations displayed.
  2. A QA link with the selected Design and Criteria displayed.
Tip:
By default, Adobe Target will automatically add you to the required audience for the QA link. This setting can be turned off, but will be useful to leave on for this lab.
Click the first link,
No Recommendation
, and observe that the Featured Products section appears as it did initially with a static list of 6 products:
Close the tab and then click the second link,
Recently Viewed Items + WeRetail 4 x 1 Design
.
Note that up to 4 items you viewed earlier now appear:
Target QA mode is “sticky” and saved in a cookie. Now that you have proven the recommendations are working as expected, you’re ready to exit QA mode. If you miss this step, you’ll keep seeing the QA results throughout the site! To exit QA mode, visit the homepage and pass an empty Target QA cookie parameter:
http://localhost:4503/content/we-retail/us/en.html?user=YOURNUMBER&at_preview_token=
Tip:
You can add a bookmarklet so you don’t have to manually pass the blank token; see .

Activating your Activity

Close the preview tab and return to the Activity page. Click on the dropdown arrow next to the status and choose
Activate
from the options.
Note that the status becomes
Activating:
After a few seconds to a couple of minutes, the status switches to
Live
:
Tip:
You can also deactivate or archive the activity using the same dropdown selector.
Open a new tab to and observe the Recently Viewed Items recommendations are active. Navigate around, returning to the URL above using the Back button, to see the recommended items change as you view new products.
Note:
Remember that you must have the user=YOURNUMBER parameter on the homepage URL to see your recommendations.
Congratulations! You’ve just set up your first Recommendations activity.
In the next lesson, we’ll explore using Audience Targeting to further personalize your recommendations.

Create a Second Activity

Let’s continue to create another activity which shows
Most Viewed Items
to only
First Pageview
visitors.
Leave this Activity and return to the Activities list page by clicking the
Activities
link in the top navigation bar. Find your Activity, mouse over it, and click
Copy
to create a copy of the activity.
First, let’s change the name of the activity from the default (which simply appends “Copy” to the name of the activity we copied.). Click the name of the activity in the upper left-hand corner, then rename the activity to
YOURNUMBER – Most Viewed Items
.
Scroll to the area of the page that we replaced with recommendations, click on the sample recommendations and choose
Change Criteria
from the menu.
De-select
Recently Viewed Items
by clicking on it, then select
Most Viewed Items Across the Site
by clicking on it.
Click
Add
to swap the criteria, then click
Next
to modify the targeted Audience.
Use the
Replace Audience
function to swap the
YOURNUMBER
Repeat Visitors
audience out. Create a
YOURNUMBER First Pageview
audience using the
Combine Multiple Audiences
feature that we just used.
Check that the targeted audience is updated:
Click
Next
to reach the Goals & Settings. We can keep the same Goals & Settings as we previously had, so click
Save & Close
.

Previewing Recommendations with CSV Download

Again, we need to check that the activity is ready to go before we put it live on our site.
In some cases, you may wish to audit the specific items that are recommended. This is particularly helpful when using algorithms like People Who Viewed This, Viewed That, where a different set of items are recommended depending on the item the user is currently viewing, and you may have thousands or millions of different items in your catalog.
For Most Viewed Items Across The Site, we’ll only have a single list of recommendations, but let’s check out how we can perform this audit.
First, check that your criteria results are ready by scrolling down and checking the status. If results are not ready, you may see:
When results are ready, you will instead see:
Then, scroll back up, click the menu icon in the upper-right hand corner, and then choose
Download data
.
A CSV file will download: open it to see the recommended items:
Note that from left to right are a list of recommended items – in this case the most frequently viewed. The recommendations are separated by environment – in this case only the Production environment has recommendations. For this algorithm, we have not applied any restrictions based on key value and so the row labeled with an asterisk (*) contains the complete set of recommendations. For other algorithm types based on a key value, such as “People Who Viewed This, Viewed That”, the key values (i.e. the “This” items) are listed in the left-most column and the recommended items (i.e. the “That” items) are listed left-to-right in the Recommendation_X columns.
Now that you’ve confirmed items are ready, activate the activity.

Testing your Targeted Activities

Confirm that both of your activities are
Live
in the Activity list view:
Open a new tab to the
http://localhost:4503/content/we-retail/us/en.html?user=001
page and verify that as a
repeat visitor,
you still see
Recently Viewed Items
– browse around the site as needed to confirm this is true, returning to the homepage with the Back button to avoid losing your query parameter.
Then, open an incognito window to the same URL and verify that as a
brand
new visitor
, you now see a different set of recommendations -
Most Viewed Items
. (Results may differ from the below screenshot based on changing pageviews!)
Extra Credit Exercise:
Confirm these items match to the CSV file by opening these items and comparing their SKUs to the SKUs of the items recommended in the CSV.
Extra Credit Exercise:
You can also become a “new visitor” by clearing the “mbox” cookie for this page which contains the session identifier. Prove that this resets the recently viewed items and subsequent browsing again reveals the recently viewed items.
Congratulations on completing Section 3! You’ve learned:
  • How to create a Recommendations Activity
  • How to QA test recommendations before putting them on your live site
  • How to show personalized recommendations to targeted audiences