Neiman Marcus' web choice: responsive beats customized

DALLAS – Even top retail brands can struggle with balancing responsiveness in their websites with personalizing content for customers. Just ask Neiman Marcus Group.

The Dallas-based chain of high-end department stores dropped an attempt at building a personalized web presence for its best clientele over that issue, one of its executives said at the National Retail Federation's Digital Summit. 

"This is an every-day challenge," said Rajeev Rai, VP of customer facing apps.

Neiman Marcus "can't compromise" on the question of the creative work that is part of its cyber presence, Rai said. "Websites need to be personalized. We have a high standard, as our objectives are availability and speed."

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The retailer has a responsive website, rather than a personalized one. The company generally strikes the right balance in getting customized web content to customers quickly when and where they want it, he said.

Retailers thus must ask themselves a question when building their sites, he said: "Which features are worth a drag on performance?"

100 milliseconds
The financial consequences for retailers of brief delays on their websites can add up quickly, according to Ann Ruckstuhl, chief marketing officer at California-based Soasta, a supplier of testing technology for digital businesses.

People just don't like to wait, Ruckstuhl said while introducing Rai's presentation at the NRF. 

"It's an indelible part of our circuitry as human beings," she told the NRF crowd.

Google's goal is to ensure delays on its site of no more than 100 milliseconds.

A one-second delay on a website can reduce page views by 11 percent and conversions by seven percent, Ruckstuhl said, citing published research.

By the time three seconds have elapsed, anywhere from 41 percent to 53 percent of virtual visitors will go elsewhere, according to Aberdeen Group and Google research referenced by Ruckstuhl.

Aberdeen has calculated the per-visitor cost of bad web performance at between $21 and $80. For Walmart, a one-second web delay could wipe out $250 million in revenue, she said. 

E-commerce sites have come a long way in responsiveness and speed, she added, "but we have a lot of room for improvement."

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