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Harvey Norman launches online store – five things we love, and five things we don’t

Thursday, 24 November 2011 | By Patrick Stafford

It's taken a few years, but retail giant Harvey Norman has finally flicked the switch on its online store, with users now able to order and purchase products from the company's website.

 

Just three years after Gerry Harvey told SmartCompany that online retailing was a "dead end", the store is finally up and running – and it's not half bad at all.

 

There are plenty of good features to find, including ways to compare products, add them to wish lists and share them via social media, and the ability to reserve products and pick them up in store is a long-awaited feature.

 

Harvey Norman can be excused for waiting to bring the store online, given the complex nature of the franchise. But now that it's here, the company has a good platform from which to leverage higher sales in a subdued retail environment.

 

Although there's quite a lot to mention, here's a list of five things we like about the store, and five things that could use a little bit of improvement.

 

Five things to like:

 

Stock levels

 

Sometimes you don't want to wait, and you want to pick up a product that very day. But too many times you'll drive down to a store and fine out none of the stock is available, or it's at a different store on the other side of the city.

 

Being able to check stock levels is crucial for a company like Harvey Norman. While it may be a better idea to give customers an exact number of how many products are in store, this is a good first step.

 

Pick up in store

 

Being able to reserve a product to pick up in a store later that day is a fantastic offer that most retailers should be using. Combined with being able to check stock levels, Harvey Norman has ensured it makes more sales by using this feature.

 

Search filters

 

Searching for products should be easy, and Harvey Norman has done a good job here. One aspect that is often overlooked is the ability to search by price range, and here it's a welcome choice. Finding products is simple and easy, while the site also promotes special sales as well no matter what you search for.

 

Recommended products

 

A great feature that not enough sites are using. Whenever you check out a product on the store, a little box shows up that provides some suggested items, such as an HDMI cable for a television, or a surge protector for a heavy electrical product.

 

They're out of the way, and very helpful, which should ensure some extra sales.

 

Product info and enquiries

 

Whenever users click on a product, they want to know everything they can about it. Harvey Norman provides information on the product, specifications, the ability to write a review, and even contact stores regarding the product itself.

 

You're also given information on in-store finance, if needed, and links to information on the website about what kind of product you should be looking for – such as guides on high definition televisions, or watching the internet on TV.

 

The site does more than offer a product – it gives its users everything they need in order to complete a purchase.

 

Five things we don't like (and we're being picky):

 

Shipping – it takes too long

 

Shipping is still a contentious issue in online retailing, and to be sure, delivering whitegoods is a bigger problem than CDs or games. But Harvey Norman should be making an effort to get goods out quicker than within five to 10 days, especially given its store network.

 

Of course, the promise on the website could be an exaggeration – users' experiences remain to be seen.

 

Keep the design interesting

 

The front of Harvey Norman's website isn't very pretty. Deals are shown on a boxed type of format, and the colour range is fairly bland. Although the site is good at keeping it simple, it's also a good idea to spice things up a little as well.

 

Given Christmas is coming, the site could have been given a slight re-tooling for the holidays, or other special events. Right now, it just looks like a generic design template.

 

Spruce up the social media

 

Harvey Norman's done a good job of putting social networking front and centre on the site, but right now it doesn't feel too active. Having a Twitter feed on the main site could spruce things up, while invitations to join specific discussions on the Facebook page would be welcomed too.

 

Not enough video

 

Video is key to drawing in visitors that stick around. Offering customers buyers' guides for products is a good start, but making a video about how to install hi-fi equipment and other products would keep people coming back.

 

Photo carousel

 

Photo carousels are a great way to make pages look active, but right now, Harvey Norman's site only has three slides and it makes things look a little bare. Now while there's probably no need to add animations everywhere, having the different pictures animated within the flicker box could keep things interesting.

 

Right now, the site is simple but appears static. Sprucing up these flicker photos with more colour and flair may work to keep things interesting.

 

 

This article first appeared on SmartCompany.