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INDUSTRY REPORT 2019 Leading Vendors to the IR Top 1000 E-Retailers

The Fallacy of 20 Millisecond Response Time

The Fallacy of 20 Millisecond Response Time

For the past few years, personalization vendors have been competing with one another to showcase who has the ability to deliver product recommendations in real-time. Now that these vendors have established who amongst them can achieve real-time personalization, the trending question of 2017 is “who can do it the fastest?” In the technology vertical, this progression is not uncommon. When a new tech standard is achieved, the next performance goals will naturally be speed, consistency, accuracy, and reliability. True to form, the same vendors that differentiated themselves from weaker contenders are now competing with real-time personalization as a “ground floor” to build upon. In doing so, many of these vendors are now making unrealistic and misleading performance claims, for example, delivering product recommendations in 20ms response time.

To understand the importance of real-time personalization, you must also grasp the concept of personalized shopping experiences.

What is a personalized shopping experience?
Every shopper is different. Whether they are a first-time visitor or a loyal customer, the need to deliver a relevant and personalized experience is the same. Personalization allows every shopper to have in-the-moment, highly individualized experiences based on behavioral profiles and predictive analytics. Real-time profiling instantly gathers 1st and 3rd party information including behavioral and contextual data. This information enables personalization engines to accurately predict the individual’s (both known and unknown) intent and serves up the most relevant experience during the active browsing session, in real-time.

What is a realistic response time?
Typical response times from the most advanced personalization engines range from 80 milliseconds to 120 milliseconds in optimal conditions for delivering 1:1 individualized experiences. These response times take into account a shopper’s in-session click-stream behavior in addition to contextual and past history data. Some vendors claim they can achieve 20 millisecond response time. They are able to make this misrepresentative claim because, in 20 milliseconds, the modeling of data is possible (although only a handful of personalization engines can actually do it), however, receiving the data from a shopper’s browser to model on and delivering recommendations back to shopper takes longer and depends on several factors such as:

• Where to Where?
• How many stops? (modems, cell tower, routers etc.) (5-15)
• Location – are you close to edge server/colocation?
• Internet Speed – are you on a high-speed network?
• Traffic – is the Internet busy that day?

Amazon owns most of the internet traffic and on a busy day, it takes more than 50ms just to get to its site. The bottom line is if you model real-time behavioral data it is impossible to have a response time less than 50 milliseconds. Claiming 20ms or less response time is nothing more than just a marketing hype.