Harvey Nichols focuses on being more than just your typical luxury department store. They want to give people more reasons to come there than simply just to shop and want to be classified as more like a large boutique, with a luxury food market, restaurant, café's or brasseries included with their fashion and beauty departments in every Harvey Nichols store. A great customer experience is on top of their priority list, and they train their staff to give their customers just that and build a friendship-like relationships with their loyal customers.
But just like many other department stores today, when buying online has become easier than ever and items can be delivered to your front door the next working day in most online stores, Harvey Nichols too, has been struggling. More than ever, retailers will need to give consumers a reason to shop and choose their store over other competitors and offer their services and products whenever and however it is the most convenient for the customer.
Not too long ago, in 2015, Harvey Nichols' “Avoid Gift Face” created by Adam & Eve/DDB was named the most engaging ad during the festive season (Brown, 2015). But unfortunately, the success didn't last long, and not soon after in March, after Harvey Nichols hired Deborah Bee to be its new group marketing and creative director, they also ended their 17 year-long agency relationship with DDB. But the thing is, that their advertising and video campaigns for Harvey Nichols have not been bad at all, they've been quite fun, innovative and eye-catching. For example, their campaign in 2017 “Dead Rare”, featured critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis, wearing an equally rare fine jewellery, and they've also touched on unusual ad topics like shoplifting and bad fitting clothes in their advertising campaigns. But in 2018, when you see innovative and eye-catching advertising daily, if social media outlets and other people are not talking about the ad, and if you're not exposed to it several times, the ads can be very easily forgettable.
But change could be happening. Recent improvements to Harvey Nichols' online merchandising strategy has seen onsite conversion grow already. Since adopting the ATTRAQT Freshopper's technology in their website, which encourages customers to explore the website for longer and in more depth, they've reported a 31% uplift in conversion from category to product display pages by desktop shoppers and an 23% among customers shopping via mobile over the course of four weeks. According to ATTRAQT “shoppers have been staying longer in their site, they're engaging more with category filters and clicking onto product pages - which ultimately helps increase sales” (Briggs, 2018). This makes sense, because an easier shopping experience for the customer means that they are more likely to stay in the website for longer and actually buy something.
This also shows the importance of giving customers omni-channel choice in order to succeed in the increasingly competitive industry. Customers want and expect to shop when and how they want to and providing them a shopping experience as seamless as possible throughout all the channels is important. Research also says that at least 40% of all luxury purchases are in some way influenced by consumers' online experience.
Even though Harvey Nichols has been successful with their new website technology, social media is still something they could improve on, especially when today Millennials make up about 30% of the luxury space and their contribution to the overall growth in spending is much more than that. In 2017 according to consultancy firm Bain, the majority of the luxury market growth was down to spending by shoppers under 40. And by 2025 that portion has been predicted to grow up to 45% (Solomon,2017), and retailers need to start considering the fact that Millennials think and shop differently from previous generations. And even though most of Harvey Nichols' customers currently are from a higher age bracket, luxury shoppers in general are more digitally savvy than mainstream consumers, and usually are very comfortable with new technology and among the first to adopt it. Harvey Nichols' social media currently has 396 thousand followers, but pictures only receive about 300-2000 likes, which means their engagement is very low. Maybe some improvements in that section could help, because more interesting social media channels can do a lot, and make customers want to visit their website or store just after seeing one interesting picture or a video on these platforms. It's also a great platform to strengthen the relationships with customers and their inquiries.
By their Instagram you can also tell how celebrities and buzz affect engagement. Harvey Nichols stocks Rihanna's new Fenty Beauty line, and these campaign pictures on their Instagram have received more likes than their usual posts. Maybe this is something they could touch on in the future more; try and create more buzz with their advertising by including celebrities, or stocking more celebrity endorsed products and showcasing this on their social medias. But this is something they should be very careful about, because it is a common trick used by many lower end retailers too, and they still want to differentiate from these retailers as much as they can and keep their exclusive luxury reputation. Buzz worthy campaigns are something in general that they should try and create, because buzz is always what gets people talking and interested.
Customization and unique experiences overall are also something that especially luxury customers are wanting and even expecting today. They want an experience that they've never had before, hard-to-find items no one else has, and an environment they can only find at that specific destination. Personalization services, home delivery, gifts, virtual assistance… These are something that can make a customer return time after time, or even be the reason they would choose Harvey Nichols over other retailers or online competitors.
After the recent hiring of a new marketing and creative director and the success of the improved online experience, Harvey Nichols' seems to already be doing improvements for getting more customers to their website and in store. Is this going to be enough or will they still have to drastically change their tactic when it comes to attracting more customers? Only time will tell. But keeping in mind the ever-changing market, consumer preferences and retail environment would certainly not hurt.
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