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Harvey Nichols has launched a new website that seeks to reinforce its status as a luxury multichannel retailer.

The relaunch includes a new mobile site and additional features such as a ‘Click & Try’ service and real-time stock levels.

Rather than carry out a full review of the new Harvey Nichols site, I thought it would be useful to highlight a few of the new features.

In the past we’ve come across a number of high-end brands that are severely let down by the online customer experience, so have Harvey Nichols and development agency Ampersand Commerce managed to get it right?

Read onto find out, or for more information check out our blog posts looking at 17 luxury brands with poor web user experience or how Mulberry's new responsive site shows luxury brands how to do UX.

Social content

Harvey Nichols' new site is designed around showcasing the brand’s fashion content, with new blog posts published every few days.

The articles are divided into six different categories named The Buzz, Trends, Editor’s Picks, Inspiration, The Knowledge, and Brand Focus.

Some of the categories are more obvious than others, but the general aim is to give shoppers a mix of fashion tips, news, trend information and advice from various experts.

Users can also filter the content using subcategories based on Harvey Nichol’s different departments.

The articles tend to be quite brief and include details of new trends, discussions around a particular celebrity or details of new Harvey Nichols products.

This is obviously good for SEO and increasing time on-site, and it also allows the content team to include calls-to-action directing shoppers to buy products featured in the articles, or even book a table at the Harvey Nichols restaurant.

I do feel that the CTAs would benefit from being a bit more visible, however.

Content marketing is nothing new but it’s still interesting to see businesses place such a big emphasis on blog content within their site design.

Harvey Nichol’s is following in the footsteps of other luxury retailers such as Net-A-Porter, though it has a long way to go until it can match its rival’s level content output.

'Click and Try'

Click-and-collect has consistently proven to be a successful sales tool for multichannel retailers, as it provides a popular delivery option for customers and helps to drive incremental sales when people visit the stores.

A survey run by Econsultancy in August 2013 found that almost two-thirds of consumers (63%) had bought products online before collecting them in-store at least once in the previous 12 months, while 16% used reserve-and-collect at least once a month.

Furthermore, Halfords introduced click-and-collect around three years ago and now 86% of all its sales are for in-store collection.

As such it’s not surprising that this is an option on Harvey Nichol’s new website. However it’s interesting to note that the retailer has gone a step further and offers a ‘Click & Try’ option.

So imagine if you can that I was undecided as to whether I wanted to spend £1,935 on a pair of Givenchy leather trousers. This new service allows customers to purchase an item online then try it on in-store with the help of a style advisor. The session also apparently comes with a complimentary glass of champagne.

The UX is also well-designed, as when choosing this option within the shopping basket users are shown up-to-date opening hours and details of the store locations.

Luxury retailers all to often fall short in terms of the online customer experience, but this is an excellent service and one that I feel should have a positive impact on Harvey Nichols' conversion rate.

Fashion Emergency!

There is an ever-present footer on the Harvey Nichols site that include links to recently viewed items, saved products and the brand’s social accounts.

More interestingly though, one of the buttons is labelled ‘Fashion emergency’ and gives users immediate access to the brand’s customer service team.

The idea is that shoppers can access live chat to track down specific items or ask for style advice.

ASOS and Schuh have been trialling a similar service for some time now, while brands from other industries have also seen positive results from using live chat for customer service.

For example, Sky previously told us that live chat helped to improve its sales and customer service.

Unfortunately the live chat tool was unavailable when I visited the site, which is potentially more damaging to the customer experience than not even offering live chat in the first place.

Nonetheless it’s another feature that reinforces Harvey Nichol’s reputation as a luxury retailer and one that will help it to distinguish itself from the competition.

David Moth

Published 14 April, 2014 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1682 more posts from this author

Comments (18)

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stephen

Luxury is about being able to demonstrate that your product is worth more than your competitors

The HN site looks like a £35 Wordpress template someone found by Googling "fashion website template"

Bland cookie cutter sites like HN do nothing to show me that they are in any way a luxury brand

All of these sites use the same cookie cutter web design, which is exactly the same design that was used by fashion sites 78 years ago when I started marketing

This is a sign of very mediocre marketers within these brands who either do not understand luxury or do not have the ability to build sites outside of the 1 shot design allowable in clothing

Go through these fashion sites, they all have the same homepage design:

http://www.boohoo.com/
http://www.clothingattesco.com/
http://inlovewithfashion.com/
http://www.topman.com/
http://www.houseoffraser.co.uk/
http://www.zalando.co.uk/
http://boden.co.uk
http://www.prettylittlething.com
http://www.fiftyplus.co.uk
http://www.fashionunion.com
http://www.matalan.co.uk

Stephen
(who is sick of the rubbish masquerading as luxury digital design)

over 2 years ago

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Bob

hahaha @ stephen for being really old and thinking the interweb has been around for 78 years. Bless

over 2 years ago

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Bob 2

Looks like stephen is trying to get himself a job in a fashion retailer by pretending to know everything.

over 2 years ago

Becs Rivett

Becs Rivett, Email marketing manager at Becs Rivett freelance

Stephen, you do have a point, but there's a reason everyone does that...it works.

Having previously worked for a fashion retailer, it's really hard to go out there doing something a bit different and I commend HN for being braving, biting the bullet and trying something new. If it works then they've paved the way for others. If not, they've just spent a lot of money for nothing. But then that's what it means to be a first mover.
I wish they wouldn't all go for this masonry layout!

It's not my cup of tea personally, but then I'm not the target demographic. I go in-store maybe once or twice a year and only to buy stuff from the food hall.

over 2 years ago

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Jack Jarvis, Owner at The Website Review Company

@Stephen - Luxury or not, people are people and want a good, simple easy to use website that shows products well. The site does that. There have been numerous attempts by luxury brands to go against the grain with website design and they always fail.

Yes if you were in a store you can pretty much do what you like, but nobody is going to want to try understand a completely new website.

The proof of the success in the site will be the stats, if it sells well, it works!

Halfords were highlighted in the case study with their success with click and collect. Halfords (in my opinion) have always had a pretty bad site, and even the updated one isn't great looking, but it obviously works!

over 2 years ago

Chris Michael

Chris Michael, Digital Transformation Consultant and CTO at CJEM

@ Stephen - you are being a bit harsh.

There is quite a lot more to it than a standard WP template (even though the site is based on a mix of Magento and WP). In fact there are some very nice bits to this new site. The most impressive thing for me is that they have made a good effort in putting together some great content (e.g. Buzz, Trends, Inspiration areas). And they have made an effort to link this back to the commerce functions.

The design is not my cup of tea - a bit bland - but you can't please anyone. BUT, most importantly, there are some issues...

1. Overall it looks a bit of a mess / cluttered - like they are not sure whether to make it a content site or a commerce site
2. The CTAs are often too recessive - a simple fix
3. They have not made a good enough experience for tablets (e.g. the menus are not optimised for touch)
4. There are some design inconsistencies and/or bits not finished off (e.g. light boxes missing backgrounds)

Also I have not played with the site long enough to see if there is any personalisation going on. If not, this is a problem, especially considering my first point above, as the clutter could be reduced significantly by simplifying the site down based on behaviour.

I would say this is 80% there and I hope they have left some budget for ongoing testing and CRO.

over 2 years ago

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Phil Oakley

@ Stephen - Of the sites you mention I would only really consider Boden as luxury.

Becs make the valid point that there is a stock template for homepages for a reason, they work. Consumers are not good with change.

Take supermarkets, my local ASDA, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, and Aldi (yes I am that fickle) all have the same entry point...groceries. Why? Because that's what I'm used to. They each may have slight variations on how that groceries area looks, or it's surrounding product aisles but the foundation of my first impression on entering the store (the homepage) is the same.

over 2 years ago

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Katy

I was interested to read this, as I came across the new site yesterday and didn't purchase because I couldn't find what I wanted quickly enough.

If you select a section from the top nav and then choose a brand (so far so good) you can then narrow down your search further by colour or price, but not by product type. The only option was to scroll through a long list of products offered by that brand - no thanks. A key feature of the design should be to make it easy for customers who know exactly what they want to purchase to do so quickly - surely that's an easy win? Disappointing - I completed my purchase elsewhere.

over 2 years ago

Chris Michael

Chris Michael, Digital Transformation Consultant and CTO at CJEM

@ Katy, I agree with you - the site does not make it 'easy' enough to buy. M&S had similar issues when they relaunched their site recently.

This is a common problem when a brand introduces non-sales 'content' into an ecommerce experience. It gets in the way of finding and buying products. This can be a big problem for existing customers who come back to the site and get lost, but is usually less of a problem for new customers.

This does not mean that such content is a bad idea. But it does mean that brands have to work VERY hard to introduce it in the right way.

The best way to do this is more gradually, via personalisation and live testing (AB/MVT). And if possible the new experience should be introduced as a live pubic beta - giving users the choice AND telling them about the changes in advance. But this is expensive and rarely happens.

over 2 years ago

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Phil Oakley

@ Chris

"And if possible the new experience should be introduced as a live pubic beta - giving users the choice AND telling them about the changes in advance. But this is expensive and rarely happens"

Totally agree. Ironic that "testing" change before offering it to all customers whether in a beta or using techniques like MVT is deemed expensive.

It's more expensive to spend the money, make changes on gut feel only for your customers to then reject it and you see sales drop.

over 2 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

I think it's ok.

> It seems to be 'tablet first' - hence the tap friendly top menu that isn't hover friendly; the homepage carousel designed for swiping, etc.
> The idea to focus on content is good - it now depends what they make of that.
> There are lots of little tweaks & stuff that would improve it, but also lots of simple little features - the footer bar is a very good idea; 'lazy loading' good, etc.
> There *are* lots of nice very small brand touches. Free gift bag/gift box, etc.

It is a good platform for optimisation, which is not to be knocked. If they have a good optimisation process in place & listen to the data & the feedback and try a few 'big' things among the tweaks, then I think this is a good update and pretty much the right thing to do.

As a meta-comment: One thing I think is interesting is:

1. They have obviously followed lots of the boilerplate 'best practices' on various things like enclosed checkout, etc.
2. This review itself essentially marks them on their adherence to those 'best practices'.
3. The first comment here knocks them pretty much for their over-adherence to common patterns.

Thanks for the post, and thanks for the comments - very much enjoyed reading all.

over 2 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Dan - There's nothing wrong with standardisation in certain areas. What was that thing Steve Krug said?

over 2 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

@Chris - agreed. I was pointing out (albeit not very well) the irony of the review marking the site on adherence to standards vs the first comment being "it's too standard!!!"

over 2 years ago

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stephen

Whether it is standard or not is immaterial.

If you want to call your self a luxury retailer, you have to demonstrate that. To me, they do not demonstrate luxury.

If you have not worked across luxury and standard ecom, you may not identify the differences. Interview a few millionaires about how and why they shop online and your views will quickly change

The headline of this piece, which everyone seems to miss in the comments, poses a question:

"Does Harvey Nichols' new site match up to its luxury reputation?"

Is it a perfectly fine online store to buy something from, but it is not luxury

over 2 years ago

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Andrew Areoff

Where are some of these comments coming from? A £35 Wordpress'eque template. Obviously some people don't know good design when they see it.

I think this new site oozes luxury. I'd like to see where it doesn't.

over 2 years ago

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R Michael Davies

I agree with Stephen,

As one of the world's foremost experts on selling to the top 2%, I would echo that the HN site is not something that wealth or affluence would be interested in.

HN sells to the "entitlement generation", that is, the younger crowd that feels the world owes them something. They posture as success, they hang around success, they just don't know what it really is.

For them, the HN site is a match. That said, HN has had real difficulty accessing the 2% crowd because they do not understand them. Over 89% of the 2% are over 40, and 73% of that 2% are over 55.

The fact is, the young people they appeal to simply don't have real wealth.

So, lets not pretend that HN has a grip on marketing to the wealthy affluent. Clearly, they don't have anything at all to attract them. Wrong colour pallet, wrong fonts, wrong layouts, wrong navigation. Blah.

I'd be happy to teach a lesson on marketing to the wealthy here, but, like HN clientele, you can't afford me :)

Great article!

Lord R Michael Davies CD, MBA

over 2 years ago

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Calum McGowan, Delivery Lead - Native Apps at Auto Trader Limited 2

I shop at HN. I'm not in the 2%. I don't feel the world owes me anything. By the way, if HN only focussed on marketing to this top 2%, they'd go bust. So, frankly, who cares if these super-affluent people like it or not. As an experience, the site is clean and simple and does the job.

over 2 years ago

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anonymous department store guy

Its a good site. Especially given its been done in Magento, probably for a tiny fraction of Selfridges' spend using Websphere. Comments about "its not luxury enough" are pretty meaningless; there are tons of awful luxury sites out there that have compromised UX for the sake of brand values, and all they're doing is hemorrhaging money. Plus, we don't really know from looking at the site what the "luxury" experience is; are they using CRM effectively to target? What's their packaging like? Are they adding surprise and delight elsewhere?

What we can see is that they've made a brave call on the "click and reserve" feature; that's stock taken off the floor that can't be sold while its held, which I'm sure their store ops people were thrilled about, but gives online customers a great experience.

I have to admit this gives me the confidence to take a serious look at Magento when we replatform; I'd still like to see how it performs under heavy load, like Q4 sales though.

over 2 years ago

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