Byline: Janet Ozzard

NEW YORK — The Neiman Marcus Group has entered into a strategic partnership with RichFX Inc., an Internet software developer.
The deal calls for the retailer to use RichFX’s Environments, a patented technology, on its e-tail Web site. The first application will be the creation of a new Manolo Blahnik boutique, to debut in August.
The appeal of Environments is its ability to reproduce three-dimensional spaces, said Gayle Tremblay, vice president of merchandising for Neiman-Marcus.com.
For example, shoppers logging onto the Blahnik boutique site will see a representation of the shoe designer’s store here. They will then be able to “walk” through the store and examine shoes from various angles.
RichFX is using compression technology, which allows for high-speed data movement across a typical Web connection.
“We responded right away when we saw this technology,” said Trembley. “It’s so applicable to the retailing side of the Internet.”
Bill Dodd, senior vice president of strategic business partnerships at RichFX’s Atlanta office, said: “It allows merchandisers to do what they do best, which is display their merchandise in a creative way. It allows you to bring an immersive experience to the consumer in real time, without long download time.”
The quick download time and the ability of the technology to be used by any modem — without the need for a high-speed line — were key selling points, said Trembley. Plus, with the recent failure of e-tailer Boo.com pinned in part on overly advanced technology, retailers have become sensitive to making shopping quick and easy for customers.
“We want to be on the leading edge with technology, but not beyond the point that everyone can enjoy it,” she said. “You can’t let the thrill of the technology take away from the shopping experience.”
“People have no patience online today,” said Dodd.
RichFX, said Dodd, began in Tel Aviv, and some of the technology it is developing was first used in the Israeli army.
Trembley said she doesn’t have plans yet for the next designer who will get the RichFX treatment, but said: “The technology is there. It would be an easy transition for any number of things.”