Delivering customer experience: Bridging the gap between bricks and clicks at the NRF

Strangeloop is at the NRF’s Big Show this week (if you’re there, stop by booth 2843 and say hi to Nat, Kerry, and Kelly), so of course I’ve been following the NRF blog closely. This post yesterday jumped out at me: 9 retailers who get customer experience right.

The post highlights companies’ efforts in the bricks and mortar world, focusing on things like great staff and product selection. But since, to my mind, customer experience extends to the online world, I couldn’t resist doing a little cheap and easy performance testing.*

Here’s a screen grab of the first 3 seconds of load time for the home pages of all nine sites:

NRF: Home page load times for 9 top retail websites

As you can see, after 3 seconds, no usable content had loaded on any of the sites. If you click through the image, you can see the full filmstrip, which shows that the first page to load usable content was the Wiliams-Sonoma home page, at 3.5 seconds. Anthropologie and Chipotle Mexican Grill were the latecomers, taking 9.5 and 17 seconds, respectively, to load usable content.

These are good companies, and I believe that they deserve NRF’s praise for their focus on customer service. And the performance of their sites is fairly typical of ecommerce sites in general, so I don’t think they have anything in particular to be embarrassed about. But given their focus on offline customer service, and given this other NRF post — Why has the web won? — I think the days of settling for 3.5 seconds as an acceptable time frame for loading usable content are numbered.

*All tests conducted on Webpagetest — IE7 on DSL via the server in Dulles, VA. See the test results page, with links to the individual results page for each site, here.

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