Quality online and social media content is the key to retaining market leadership
Gerry Harvey, co-founder and executive director of the Harvey Norman retail chain, announced yesterday that ‘the time is right to go online’.
Mr Harvey was recently in the news for spearheading an ultimately unsuccessful campaign by major ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers for the GST to be applied to overseas online purchases, so his latest announcement could be seen as something of a surprise – or, more likely, a grudging acceptance that in the Internet age, an attractive, engaging online presence is a necessity for all businesses great and small.
In terms of recognising the importance of content, Mr Harvey’s comment that ‘by this time next year you’ll see Harvey Norman with a pretty sizeable Internet presence’ is instructive. It demonstrates a recognition that the retailer’s existing site isn’t going to cut the mustard in the competitive online market.
Engaging content beats a brochure
Currently, the Harvey Norman site is little more than an electronic brochure, listing products and prices but offering no way for people to buy them online. The goal has always been to drive customers to visit one of the chain’s 173 stores nationally, but now it seems the time has come to fight fire with fire.
Gerry Harvey has clearly not taken this decision lightly. ‘My heart’s beating very strongly on whether we make any money out of it,’ he told the Herald Sun. ‘I haven’t got any choice. I’ve got to cannibalise our stores.’
Strong words from a man who clearly has his heart and soul in the physical world. But given that analysts expect sales from Australian-based websites to more than double from $16.9 billion last year to over $33 billion by 2015, it’s a necessary move.
Harvey Norman won’t be alone in making that move (Myer has already done so, albeit in a scaled-back manner). The issue, then, is going be staying competitive in the online space. With more and more virtual retailers competing for market pre-eminence, standing out from the crowd is more important than ever.
The quality content advantage
Harvey Norman has name-recognition and tradition on its side but, as it has discovered over the last few years, that counts for nothing if customers feel they can get a better deal elsewhere.
Similarly, simply making it known that you have entered the online marketplace isn’t going to be enough. You have to create a reason for people to visit and revisit your site. Obviously, product offerings and price competitiveness are crucial, but it is the sort of content a site offers that make the all-important difference.
A site that can offer ‘product of the day (or week or month)’ reviews or video ‘how to’ guides for best-selling items or online competitions, all aligned with an active, engaging social media presence, could have a crucial edge over its competitors as the online retailing battles really begin.
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Image source: Courier Mail