Introduction to Variants

Products are commonly collapsed into variants, sometimes also referred as stock keeping units (SKUs).

In e-commerce context, many of the product variants are represented by just one product detail page (PDP) as otherwise a shopper would be enforced to choose and reload product pages in order to find and cart the right variant. This is almost always the case with size variants, but occasionally with other variant types as well, such as color, handiness and quantity. Ultimately, product variants are the concrete products a shopper can add to cart and buy, whereas a PDP is simply a web-design method how the options are represented to online shoppers.

Variants and Recommendations

Depending on the technology, product recommendations generally refer to a PDP with url and with most recommendation systems, including Nosto, by hiding the main product if this isn't available. The practical problem this poses is that the variant a shopper might be interested in is not taken into account by default, which can yield a sub-par shopping experience.

To mitigate the otherwise crippling experience, Nosto's product recommendations feature variant settings as an option, which narrow down the recommended products individually to those, which have availability for the variant shopper is interested in.

Variants themselves can be technically any type a product is sold in, such as handiness for golf gloves or bottle size in cosmetics, yet size and color in garment and fashion are the most common and most recognisable variant types. For simplicity, examples used in the article refer to the latter two, but essentially any variant type is technically supported.

Settings Control Visibility

When variant support is enabled in a Nosto recommendation campaign, availability of variants is taken into account when processing what products are recommended. The output is foremost a recommendation featuring products that are available in shopper's preferred variant, which is based on their behaviour on the site. Variant options is personalization layer, so it respects other filter options such as product type matching: Show products from the same range or price options show slightly pricier alternatives.

Example of a PDP cross-selling recommendation: A shopper that has a preference for sizes XL or XXL are unlikely to see the black jacket in a recommendation as it's not available in the size of preference (bottom right), but a shopper with preference to sizes XS to L would.

Available Options

Variant settings have two separate and distinguishable modes: Direct Interactions and Known Affinities, both useful for slightly different scenarios and use cases.

Known Affinities are based on all past interactions with variants and data Nosto knows about the shopper, such as what they added to the cart, carted during their last visit our bought before.

Direct interactions only take into account the last interaction, such as adding a specific size to the cart or if a shopper chooses a variant by clicking a swatch on a PDP.

Known Affinities

Unarguably a more universal and more broadly applicable mode is known affinities as this takes into account all past signals and indications of interest towards a certain variant. Getting started only requires what specific variant type(s) should be taken into account as a personalization factor.

When the option such as below is chosen & enabled, the recommendation automatically weighs more colors that a shopper has an affinity towards, by giving significantly less weight for products that don't have availability in the preferred color.

In case your product variants are not defined as color, colour, size or sizes, types that Nosto identifies and processes automatically, navigate under Segmentation & Insights > Settings and specify the variant types Nosto should process for affinities, which then enables the affinity option in recommendations. This might be the case for example if the variant type of a size is defined in the integration as a less common language like Estonian, which is not processed by default. ('size' - 'suurus')

As another example, if variant is a different type such as titles, which could be the case for online book or record store, your variant options should be defined as below.

Lastly, if you're unsure about how your variants are defined and processed, review these under Catalog Explorer. In the example, highlighted area in pink: Custom fields. Variants are size and color.

Direct Interactions

Direct interactions take into account only the last (or current) interaction on a PDP or what was added to the shopping cart. When enabled, the recommendations on the page reloads whenever a shopper

  • Selects a size variant on a PDP

  • Adds a size variant to the shopping cart

When variant is added to the cart, all recommendations on the target page reload to reflect the variant selection. Direct interaction is globally enabled for all recommendations under the Recommendations > Settings, whereas campaign option controls what variant(s) should be considered.

Capturing direct interaction signals

Leveraging direct interaction requires Nosto to capture and interpret the interaction. For Shopify stores, which make use of parameters in the address bar, followed by the variant's ID


This process is automated and built-in. However it is possible to remove the parameters from the url on a Shopify build, and as other platforms might use different method and/or parameter, refer to development docs to add the functionality to your recommendation templates or send our support a message how to get started!

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