Most people prefer to get an opinion before purchasing a product—and if that opinion is from a current user, all the better. This desire to make informed buying decisions has given rise to product recommendation networks, such as, which allow consumers to express opinions and preferences regarding any product on the market. Says Gordon Gould, ThisNext’s CEO, “Social shopping is the future of the internet experience… More and more, people are trusting the voice of their peers more than traditional media.” What Exactly Is a Product Recommendation Network? A product recommendation network (PRN) is just what it sounds like—it’s an internet site that enables buyers to give feedback on which products they’re happy with and why. Consumers are permitted to recommend products they like, but not products they’re unhappy with. The reasoning is that a few recommendations of the best products in a given category will be far more helpful to shoppers than sorting through numerous products that aren’t user-friendly. The networks aren’t all-inclusive, and products covered tend to be life-style specific. Recommendations range in content from unique uses to product specs to visual descriptions. Some users share reasons they prefer a particular model, or which features they appreciate; others explain what makes a product conducive to their daily life. How Can a Network Benefit My EBiz? You can actually derive two key benefits from utilizing product recommendation networks. The first is the important Market Research opportunities they present: • Because they do cater to niche markets, PRNs provide you, as an e-tailer, a look at not only the products that are in-demand within certain special interest groups, but also the products that are likely to remain in-demand. • PRNs also let you see which features and qualities attract different demographics to the same product. This makes them a helpful tool both for designing your marketing message and for constructing offers and advertisements targeted to your niche market. The second benefit product recommendation networks provide is a valuable channel for promoting your eBiz: • Some PRNs offer a service in which they facilitate your building relationships with their most influential contributors. These key contributors can guide you in your product selection; and as you add new products to your line-up, you’ll be getting feedback from people in a position to send business your way, if they like what you have to sell. • You can advertise your business next to recommendations for the product models you sell, or next to specific keywords, so everyone who sees your ad is already looking for what you’re selling. You can also get listed as a retailer of recommended products, so shoppers doing their homework can find you quickly and conveniently. • PRNs can help you power a recommendation service on your website, so you can spread the word to your own customers. And they’ll syndicate the recommendations back to their broader network, so their users can find your product and make their way back to you. To be successful, you need to sell what your customers want—that’s why listening to and applying consumer feedback is crucial to your eBiz. Says Gould, “The tremendous opportunity here is to revolutionize brand marketing online. More and more people are spending more and more time on user-generated content sites; so tools like product recommendation networks are going to become increasingly important.”

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