Harvey Norman began its current foray into eCommerce with the launch of its website in November 2011, two years later it won the 2013 Online Retail Industry Award (ORIA) for Best Multichannel Retailer and today the business is continuously updating its online services and embracing mobile shopping.

Recently Harvey Norman relaunched its mobile site, upgrading it from the version that launched in July 2012. The redesign means that harveynorman.com.au will be optimised for the best user experience no matter what device people are using to browse and shop.

“It’s about giving a great shopping experience whatever the device they are on,” said Harvey Norman head of digital Gary Wheelhouse. “If you are a retailer today and you aren’t mobile you are heading in the wrong direction.”

Harvey Norman mobile site
Featured products on the Harvey Norman mobile site

Wheelhouse said they are seeing big increases in traffic coming from mobile devices and “by this time next year our mobile traffic will outstrip our desktop traffic.”

This is also reinforced by research predicts the use of tablets will surpass PCs by mid-2015.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that franchisees will miss out on sales in their bricks and mortar stores.

Wheelhouse said Harvey Norman doesn’t talk in percentage of sales that are made on mobile or PCs, but about the number of people that visit the sites, as the mobile site actually works to drive customers into stores. Shoppers have a tendency to search for a product online first, check the stock availability and find their closest store to make a physical purchase.

This is what it means to be an omnichannel retailer, all the channels are connected and complement one and other, Wheelhouse said.

Harvey Norman’s local store network gives it a “huge advantage” when it comes to being a successful omnichannel retailer, Wheelhouse said. For example it offers Click & Collect at stores and inventory can be shipped from a store that is close to you for faster delivery.

Wheelhouse said Harvey Norman is bringing consumers the things they love about the stores no matter how they are shopping with the brand. He highlighted two features that achieve this: the live chat and online interest-free finance offers, which is “part of the persona of the brand”.

Harvey Norman mobile site
Live chat and interest-free finance on the Harvey Norman mobile site. 

Many of the online product experts responding to questions on the live chat seven days a week, have worked in Harvey Norman stores in the past. Wheelhouse said the live chat is “world class” and it services tens of thousands of shoppers each month with a high level of consumer satisfaction.

A report released yesterday by the Australian Digital Transformation Lab, a joint venture between Capgemini Australia and Sydney University, described 38 per cent of all Australian retailers as “laggards” when it comes to digital commerce and warned that they are at risk of losing customers to foreign competitors.

Harvey Norman was one of the retailers analysed in the report. The report said that Harvey Norman performed well above the local sector average in its digital capabilities but could do more to relate to consumers online.

“To develop long-lasting relationships with its customers and increase brand loyalty, Harvey Norman should consider offering its customers a range of relational services such as individual product recommendation, website personalisation, and e-mail notifications.

“Relationship building will be particularly important due to the decentralised franchise structure of the retailer,” the report said.

Wheelhouse said there will be more innovations in the next 12 months, as the brand is constantly updating, testing and talking to customers to offer continuous improvement in user experience.

This year Harvey Norman is again nominated for the ORIA for Best Multichannel Retailer. The reigning titleholder is up against Dan Murphy’s, David Jones, Masters Home Improvement, Michael Hill International and Shoes of Prey.

“I think that for us, winning the awards is nice but winning the customer is way more important,” Wheelhouse said.

Harvey Norman mobile site
Some of the search filters on the Harvey Norman mobile site
Harvey Norman mobile site
The mobile site provides on option to buy online or locate a nearby store.