Most e-commerce sites to-date have focused on helping consumers decide what to buy and where to buy. We study the complementary question of helping consumers decide when to buy, focusing on consumer durables. We introduce a utility-based model for evaluating different approaches to this question. We focus on how best to make use of forecasts in making recommendations, and propose three natural strategies. We establish a relationship between these strategies, and show that one of them is optimal. We conduct a large-scale experimental study to test the performance and robustness of these strategies. Across a wide range of conditions, the best strategy obtains 90% of the maximum possible gains.

An expanded version of the paper including complete proofs of the theorems is provided as Microsoft Research Technical Report no. MSR-TR-2011-97.