Hallmark rebuilds site, reaps rewards

Improved response times also improves customer conversion rate

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The site additions produced a complex code layer that hurt performance, but also made it difficult to add new customer features. Because of this, Hallmark decided to remake the site. "This gave us an ability to have a fresh start," Barker said.

Hallmark moved off its IBM's WebSphere to Microsoft .Net, because of lower licensing and maintenance cost.

Hallmark's IT organization is largely focused on enterprise-wide needs that help it deliver manufacturing products sold at retail. It doesn't have the IT resources to focus on Web-based delivery, and they didn't want to build that capacity, Barker said.

Although Infosys is an offshore company, it maintains a permanent staffing presence at Hallmark, said Barker. "Our Infosys team has been our right hand in all of this," he said. The availability of offshore resources allows Hallmark to scale-up additional resources as needed, he said. Savvis provides the hardware hosting.

Barker doesn't credit any single change with improving the conversion rate. Optimizing search and navigation helped as did overall streamlining in making it easier for customers to find product, he said.

A response rate of three to five seconds, measuring from the moment a person hits a page to the time the page is fully rendered, is ideal, said Khalid Saleh, co-founder of conversion rate optimization company Invesp Consulting and co-author of "Conversion Optimization: The Art and Science of Converting Prospects to Customers" (O'Reilly Media, 2010). Any response time above seven seconds, "and we start to get worried," he said.

Saleh said it's difficult to pin conversion rates to response rate improvements, but when you drop from 12 seconds to five seconds "you can see a huge uplift in customers," -- and conversion increase gains as high as 12%, but he said the increase reported by Hallmark is "not unheard of."

Barker said the experience has given his organization "a lot of confidence that we can take on even more, whether more services, products, functionality."

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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