Lunch & Learn 01: Nosto, the Recommendation Engine

Charlie Hankers | March 8th 2017

Lunch & Learn is an opportunity for the PushON team to get to know the people behind the tools we use, and of course for them to meet developers and marketers who use their tools every day. As the name suggests, the guest gives an informal talk over lunch and we get to ask them questions – and they also get the chance to find out how people use their tools and where improvements could be made from the perspective of those implementing them.

First up is Nosto, whose eCommerec consultant Tom Wapshott visited us on 8 March 2017. What does Nosto do? Well, if you’ve ever shopped online and been recommended other items, be it batteries, accessories or the chance to get an upgraded product at a special price, there’s a chance Nosto’s engine was behind it. The tool also follows up abandoned carts and tries to convert them into sales, even if it’s not for the original product requested (sometimes offering a cheaper model gets results). Our eCommerce clients who have used the engine report measurable upturns in sales, and that pattern seems to be repeated wherever it is used. Over to Tom:

Introduce yourself; what do you do at Nosto?

My name is Tom Wapshott and I am one of the eCommerce Consultants at Nosto. I work with online retailers and their partners to help build out eCommerce strategies, with a particular focus on personalisation, customer life time value and social platforms.

What exciting new things are happening at Nosto?

Well there’s never a dull moment at Nosto but we have recently become partners with Facebook, which I think shows the breadth of our capabilities and the future of eCommerce. Another exciting announcement was becoming a Premium Partner of Magento. Although Nosto is platform agnostic, Magento is a key pillar to our success both in the UK and globally.

How do you see eCommerce evolving over the next few years?

Ecommerce evolves daily with new technology, platforms or techniques being trialled and tested. One key area to watch would be the use of AR or VR to assist with online sales. It’s already being used in some verticals, and I think that once the market matures and consumers engage through submersive mediums the e-tailers who have an offering in this space will have a clear advantage.

What obstacles do you see now or in the future, for example with privacy legislation?

The main challenge with eCommerce is keeping up with technology trends and being able to pre-empt which trends are here to stay and which are just fads. The online consumer has many devices, a disparate shopping journey and no two people are the same, so keeping up with what customers want in terms of content and experience is half the battle.

In terms of privacy legislation this is just something that will need to be adopted industry wide and so long as merchants understand what they can and can’t do with customer data they will be fine. This isn’t an obstacle but a necessity to protect the data of millions of people and also the integrity of the industry as a whole.

What are your favourite examples of personalisation in ecommerce?

As a consumer I enjoy receiving personalised emails. If you browse on a site and begin to put a few things in your basket but then get distracted, having these items emailed through with a few extra recommendations always gets me back on the site and shopping again.

The in-cart X-sell or up-sell recommendations are a great feature to implement but it is always a contentious talking point with my merchants as some people don’t want to derail a would-be shopper when they are so close to making a purchase. Truth be told, with the right design, content and positioning this feature helps increase both AOV and also perceived brand value as customers see products that they otherwise may have left without grabbing.

The use of same-session personalisation is pretty cool; seeing responsive adverts delivering products during the buying journey shows just how far the technology has come. Aspirational or pre-emptive recommendations mean we can show people products we know they are going to need before they start their search, which is very powerful and makes for an incredibly effective tool.

Do you get more of a buzz from giving small retailers a boost or adding a few million in sales to a large business?

Everyone loves a good underdog story but truth be told merchants need to be of a certain size in order to get the most from a machine learning platform like Nosto so sadly we don’t work with that many smaller customers any more. The real joy in what we offer is when a merchant of any size can plot our platform across many touch points in their customer journey and they know that they have just one GUI to implement changes, set up campaigns or track success. It certainly makes my job easier!

What’s the nicest thing a client has ever said to you?

A couple of weeks back I was working on an implementation which initially was showing huge savings in terms of man hours by automating email services. When on-site with the UK CSM team we ran a training session and the customer was hugely engaged from start to finish. By the time we wrapped up they were looking at utilising a whole range of features within the platform.

“I am off to meet the owner, and for a change I am looking forward to the meeting,” he said, and with that he packed up his laptop and went to show the boss the new suite of tools we had readied for their website.

It was a great thing to hear, but the excitement that came with it was infectious!

Are you ever personally influenced by online recommendations, or are you immune?

Haha! Believe it or not I actually find myself critiquing stores that attempt personalisation so it affects me in strange ways! I found myself looking for some new rugby boots a few weeks back and whilst shopping on my mobile I found some I liked, which were sadly out of stock in my size and so I scrolled down to the bottom of the page to see what the store recommended in place of the product I wanted. Imagine my face when I realised there was nothing – no recommended alternatives, no “pre-order” button for when they came back into stock … and no chance I was parting with my cash on that website moving forward.