A few weeks ago, we outlined some of our favorite product recommendation best practices, from bestsellers to new arrivals. But plenty of savvy retailers — including DSW, Dollar Shave Club and Neiman Marcus — recommended products in other ways that didn’t quite fit into any of those categories.

Product recommendations are a way for retailers to curate their (often massive) inventories, making their customers’ lives easier. Last year, the National Retail Federation found that more than half of holiday shoppers purchased something recommended by a retailer, which highlights how important recommendations they are during the holidays, a time when everything is amplified. Marigold Engage by Sailthru also took a survey last year; we found that 58% of retailers expect the holidays to account for between one-fifth and half of their annual revenue.

In the spirit of Chanukah, here are eight of our favorite out-of-the-box product recommendation tactics from this holiday season:


When you opt-in to a retailer’s list, you’re almost always asked for your ZIP code. Since inventory varies by store, location often guides recommendations. DSW took that one step further, taking the climate into consideration. Including a six-day forecast, the footwear retailer recommended the perfect booties for a chilly week. It’s no surprise that DSW was one of the Retail Personalization Index’s biggest success stories. From one year to the next, DSW improved its score by 20 points, just missing the top 10.


Emails with shipping and tracking information have exceptionally high open rates, which makes sense. People want to know when to expect their packages, right? We liked the way Nordstrom capitalized on that valuable real estate, including recommendations — for items in the same price range, too — on the shipping confirmation page.


Product recommendations are especially important for Walmart, a retailer that sells just about everything that’s ever existed. Thanks to a partnership with BuzzFeed, the world’s largest retailer can curate kitchenware with the publisher’s seal of approval. BuzzFeed’s Tasty app has more than 95 million Facebook followers and creates some of the most popular food content in the world. So if BuzzFeed editors recommend items like this instant pot, that holds more weight.

Saks Fifth Avenue

Between the provocative Black Friday email subject lines — “A $750 gift card is too good to let go,” which: agreed — and the chatbot-led gift guide, Saks has been killing it this holiday season. As the brand’s fashion director, Roopal Patel is inherently influential. We like the way Saks utilized that, recommending her favorite items from the gift guide.



Highlighting bestsellers and trending items are great calls during the holiday season. We like the way Express quantified that, filtering personalized recommendations through the filter of high ratings. Customer reviews are more important than many people realize; according to a survey by San Diego web design firm Fan & Fuel, only 8% of consumers are indifferent about them. The other 92% are less inclined to purchase or even consider a product that has no reviews.


Online florist Bouqs rang in the most wonderful time of the year with multiple holiday best practices at once. Announcing its new holiday collection, Bouqs put the spotlight on new arrivals while incentivizing a discount for those customers who vote on their favorite arrangement. We also love the subtle twist on Express’ review-based strategy by including the poll breakdowns, letting voters know about the popularity of each. (Not to jump on the bandwagon, but holiday sweater is our favorite, too.) 

Dollar Shave Club

Strategic upselling is crucial for brands in the beauty and grooming space, given how many of their products work in tandem. Dollar Shave Club went that route on Black Friday by recommending bundles of symbiotic items… and then pairing them with bigger discounts. Dollar Shave Club also hit many of our subject line best practices, with a short, snappy, emoji-filled subject line. 

Neiman Marcus

On Green Monday, our inboxes were full of special, one-day-only offers. Most of these emails were generic attempts to drive website traffic, while Neiman Marcus took a bigger-picture approach. The brand’s Last Call clearance division sent shoppers 50% off for any one item, right above personalized product recommendations with their current prices, driving home the discount’s depth.