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Recommendations as personalized marketing: insights from customer experiences

Anyuan Shen (School of Business, State University of New York at New Paltz, New Paltz, New York, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 5 August 2014




The purpose of this paper is an exploratory study of customers’ “lived” experiences of commercial recommendation services to better understand customer expectations for personalization with recommendation agents. Recommendation agents programmed to “learn” customer preferences and make personalized recommendations of products and services are considered a useful tool for targeting customers individually. Some leading service firms have developed proprietary recommender systems in the hope that personalized recommendations could engage customers, increase satisfaction and sharpen their competitive edge. However, personalized recommendations do not always deliver customer satisfaction. More often, they lead to dissatisfaction, annoyance or irritation.


The critical incident technique is used to analyze customer satisfactory or dissatisfactory incidents collected from online group discussion participants and bloggers to develop a classification scheme.


A classification scheme with 15 categories is developed, each illustrated with satisfactory incidents and dissatisfactory incidents, defined in terms of an underlying customer expectation, typical instances of satisfaction and dissatisfaction and, when possible, conditions under which customers are likely to have such an expectation. Three pairs of themes emerged from the classification scheme. Six tentative research propositions were introduced.

Research limitations/implications

Findings from this exploratory research should be regarded as preliminary. Besides, content validity of the categories and generalizability of the findings should be subject to future research.

Practical implications

Research findings have implications for identifying priorities in developing algorithms and for managing personalization more strategically.


This research explores response to personalization from a customer’s perspective.



This research was funded by a Research and Creative Projects Award from the State University of New York at New Paltz.


Shen, A. (2014), "Recommendations as personalized marketing: insights from customer experiences", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 414-427.



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