Live From Internet Retailer: Neiman Marcus on Making a Good Site Experience Better

Miami — For high-end retailer Neiman Marcus, it’s all about the merchandise. But how you present that merchandise and engage the customer online is critical, according to Lindy Rawlinson, vice president of Web operations and new business for Neiman Marcus Direct.

Delivering a keynote address at Internet Retailer’s Web Design conference here on Jan. 20, Rawlinson noted that before you undergo a Website redesign, you have to understand your customer. You also have to make sure that whatever you do keeps that customer engaged.

It’s best to make small changes and enhancements, Rawlinson said: “Don’t do too much too quickly.” And make sure you test, she added. “The Web allows you to do this easily.”

Neiman Marcus Direct is a big fan of A/B testing, Rawlinson said, and conducts these types of tests whenever it can. “Sometimes what you think is the better [site] layout doesn’t always win,” she noted.

The retailer has made several tweaks to its Neiman Marcus site, includeing launching a new search engine and adding guided navigation features for its sales items in spring 2008. And it spent the next few months analyzing the results and making changes, Rawlinson said.

The company recently redesigned its Bergdorf Goodman Website. Among the changes: It widened the site to allow for larger images (which it had done for the Neiman Marcus site this past fall); it moved the store section to the top of the Website; and put the video and fashion blogs all in one area in a prominent position on the site, Rawlinson said.

It did not make radical changes, however. Rawlinson said you should never underestimate the power of familiarity–even if you think you can improve something, keep in mind that your customers know how to use it as it is. “We don’t want to do anything that will disrupt the shopping experience for our customer,” Rawlinson said.