Hard to believe, but just a short time ago manual recommendations were thought to be doing a good job for some pretty well-known companies, such as Columbia Sportswear, Sgt Grit and SmartPak. That is, until they automated and personalized the recommendation process, giving them 30-67% more revenue than manual recommendations. Still think manual recommendations are good enough for your business?

Most online retailers understand they need to have product recommendations in order to provide an engaging shopping experience for their customers. Although manual recommendations come free with your cart, they really have a large hidden cost because they are expensive to enter and maintain, usually out of date, and static.

Manual Recommendations are Expensive and Static

What do we mean by this? Assuming you have a catalog of at least a few hundred items, there is a cost associated with entering cross-sell and up-sell recommendations for each item. Then, as your catalog grows and changes, you need to add recommendations for each new item. And, you also have to remember to update the old recommendations to include the new items and remove the old recommendations everywhere for those items you no longer carry! This last part often doesn’t happen, so in a very short amount of time the recommendations become stale and obsolete. Not only that, even with all that work you’ve put in, the reality is that while your recommendations may be current, they are still static and will never be able to take into account a specific shopper’s history. Automation is required to not only keep up with your ever-growing and changing inventory, but to provide truly personalized (aka relevant) recommendations.

How Automating Works

Good. You’ve caught on to the need for automated and intelligent recommendations. So, how does it work? I promise not to get too technical! The 4-Tell solution uses sales data, view data and product attributes to determine recommendations for the many different types of recommendations you can use, i.e. cross-sell, similar/up-sell, etc. (And, you can use them anywhere in your 3dcart store, but that’s a conversation for another day). The solution updates the recommendations every day based upon new information (i.e. updated product catalog and sales info). In addition, the shopper’s history and actions on the website affect the recommendations in real-time. So, our recommendations are generated dynamically and will be personalized for each of your shoppers even if they are viewing the same product. This is how automated recommendations create a more engaging shopping experience and ultimately provide the lift in sales over manual recommendations.

Proven Results

We have data to prove that we create a more engaging shopping experience. We closely monitored almost a dozen of our customers this past holiday season and all of them (most are 3dcart customers, by the way) saw significant increases across the board in their statistics with automated product recommendations. What do we mean by significant? On average, shoppers who clicked on recommendations were 3.7 times more likely to make a purchase and recommendations influenced 21% of their sales. Wow. Take a moment to consider what your holiday results would have looked like with 10% to 20% more sales!

3dcart Customer Webinar with  Fernando Lulli of Royal Yarns

To fully engage with your customers you need to provide the right content at the right time. Automated personalized product recommendations are one easy way to improve your shopper’s experience. Fernando Lulli, CEO and co-founder of Royal Yarns, is also a 3dcart customer. We did a webinar with 3dcart and Fernando late last year where he shared the amazing results of what automated recommendations has done for his business. Bottom line: they influence 25% of his product sales, translating into a tremendous boost in all of his metrics, from how long shoppers spend on his site (bonus – a boost for your SEO stats too!) to how much they end up buying. Click here if you want to catch the webinar.

Finally, measuring the results of implementing any change on your online store is important. We help you setup analytics tracking so making comparisons is a snap.

Automated product recommendations. It should be at the top of your to-do list!


Ken Levy, CEO and co-founder of 4-Tell, is passionate about helping his customers give their online shoppers the best experience possible. In the time it took you to read this article, you could’ve implemented our BoostTM Product Recommendation service! We’ve partnered with 3dcart and done all work on the integration for you, so connecting to our service is free. Pricing is based on usage, starting at just $49/mo.