John Lewis says the new personalised recommendation tool on its website was a key factor in driving a 27.9% increase in sales over Christmas.

The tool, created by RichRelevance, provides customers with recommendations on fashion items by analysing shopping behaviour alongside the relationships between products and product categories.

John Lewis head of online delivery and customer experience Sean O’Connor said the tool helped increase sales in the five weeks to December 31 2011 beyond the usual spike expected during the Christmas period, and in comparison to the previous year.

When any shopper comes to our website, we want to provide them with the same personalised customer service we would if they visited us in one of our shops.”

He said that the recommendation and email personalisation platform delivered tangible results by offering customers relevant products.

Product recommendation works particularly well in the fashion category as it recognises shopper behaviour, patterns and recommends items of interest not only by product type, but by brand as well.

The tool is not integrated into social media so recommendations do not take into account what the customer’s friends have bought or viewed – something John Lewis should possibly consider enabling as it has almost 317,000 Facebook fans.

However O’Connor said the tool and its recommendations are tuned in to “crowd shopping”. 

This takes into account not only what the individual customer is doing on the site at that moment in time, but what other shoppers who are similar in product views have done before. 

We feel this is the very essence of social shopping: taking into account not just the individual customer’s experience but those of the wisdom of the crowds.”

At the moment the tool is only accessible via web, but O’Connor said the retailer was looking at introducing it to mobile.

We want our customers to have the same level of service and to provide a personalised shopping experience across all shopping channels.”

John Lewis has been quick to adopt mobile technology, launching a mobile optimised site in 2010 and trialling a virtual QR code store in Brighton in December.

It also introduced free Wi-Fi into its stores, a move which O’Connor says has been a big step forward in helping customers make an informed choice.

They can quickly and easily access our mobile optimised website, or use our iPhone app. Customers are free to access the whole of the web, including competitor sites to test our price commitment, however it primarily enables us to extend our John Lewis online content and services into our physical shops in a way that is convenient for them.”