I love to shop online and do the majority of my shopping online. Recently, I made a purchase from Overstock and found the experience to be good in some ways and in need of improvement in other aspects.

I placed an order for a king sized bed and immediately got an order confirmation email for my purchase. This email included recommendations for 3 products that could complement my new purchase. 

  1. A canopy for the bed
  2. Some sheer netting to drape over the canopy area
  3. A mattress protector.

I thought the netting was a good recommendation and immediately purchased.

Overstock got it right. So far so good.

I then immediately got an order confirmation email for the netting that included 3 recommendations:

  1. The queen size version of the bed I just purchased
  2. The exact bed I just bought
  3. A comforter

Since I just purchased the bed minutes before, I cut Overstock a break on recommending the exact bed. Maybe their recommendation tool isn’t connected to purchases in a way that updates instantly. Still, Overstock missed an opportunity to upsell me again by taking up two of the three recommender spaces for a product I already purchased.

The next day I received an email thanking me for my purchase. Since I just purchased the day before, I thought this was timely. However when I opened the email I felt a bit of a disconnect because there was a giant image of a kitchen. My purchase wasn’t kitchen related. Overstock could have done a better job of this by using dynamic content to populate the actual bed that I purchased.

As I looked further down the email it presented me with “Customers who viewed sheer netting panel also viewed…” and it showed me 6 different netting panels. Since I purchased netting yesterday based on Overstock’s recommendation in my original order confirmation email I’m starting to wonder if Overstock is paying attention to me at all. If they were perhaps they’d send me recommendations for king size sheets, pillows, bedskirts, etc, things that I hadn’t yet purchased through Overstock but that compliment the bed I bought.

The following day I received an email that was solely dedicated to recommending me products based on my recent purchase. Again, I felt that this email was timely and they were using personalization in the email. In the body of the email it read “Fawn, We recommend:” It’s great that Overstock incorporated my name in the email to make it more personal, but they totally missed the mark and showed just how disconnected they are from me as a customer by again suggesting the exact same bed I bought two days ago, only in a different size. By this third disconnect in their recommendations to me I’m starting to think they need to take a fresh look at their algorithm. The bottom portion of this email does recommend a bedskirt, some pillows and a mattress, but by now I’ve already purchased what I need elsewhere.

To wrap it up, Overstock was trying to connect with me and personalize emails to me by using a recommendation engine, and while they got it right the first time, it went downhill quickly after that. Instead of Overstock showing me that they are in tune with my interests by showing me related products to my purchase that I still needed (and ended up buying elsewhere) - Overstock kept presenting me with the products I had already purchased. Had Overstock gotten it right they could have easily gotten a few hundred dollars extra from me. Overstock is leaving a lot of potential revenue on the table by not fine-tuning their recommendation tool. If you’re using a recommendation tool in your emails or on your site take another look at it and be sure that you are recommending products that make sense for your customer, especially those that recently purchased. Make them feel like you’re paying attention by providing highly relevant suggestions at the most appropriate times.

Fawn Young
Marketing Strategist at Bronto