Q&A: Office Depot’s Take on Online Recommendations
Office Depot uses recommendations on its site to help customers choose from the more than 20,000 products it offers. To get a better understanding of how OfficeDepot.com uses recommendations, eM+C recently spoke with Jeffrey Chang, senior director of global commerce for the Delray Beach, Fla.-based company, about the importance and viability of online recommendations. Here's what he had to say:
eM+C: How do you use recommendations on your site?
Chang: Office Depot uses product recommendations to suggest alternative products as customers browse different categories on the site. It also presents possible accessories after corresponding products have been added to an online shopping cart.
eM+C: Why are they important?
Chang: During the buying process, alternative products are a great way to show our customers what else is available, especially if they didn't know such products were available. Similarly, showing accessories throughout the shopping process helps customers find relevant products that are sometimes vital to their operations and may not be included.
eM+C: When did you first implement recommendations on your site?
Chang: We first implemented them online as early as 1999. Our most recent implementation occurred in October 2007.
eM+C: Why did you recently change your recommendation process to an automated system (from Coremetrics)?
Chang: The process of manually updating this level of product cross-reference data is tedious and time-intensive. Prior to doing this, we saw inconsistent update processes between groups just based on the sheer number of products we carry and much longer lead times required. After we implemented our current approach, our online recommendations are now made in virtually real time.
eM+C: Can you offer our readers any tips in terms of using and implementing recommendations on their sites?
Chang: Regardless of the number of products you carry, data integrity is the key to leveraging any automated solution. Make sure your data is clean and that you have a good process to keep it maintained. By doing so, you'll be ready to use just about any custom or packaged solution for rendering recommendations to your customers.