The big guys in retail!

How the big players approach the web can be salient for everyone (even if it’s how NOT to do things). CHRIS THOMAS

Chris Thomas

By Chris Thomas

The big retailers have been in the news quite a bit lately, so why don’t we have a quick look at the strategies employed by some them and the way they’ve approached online marketing/online retail. I also want to also discuss where we might be headed in 2009.

This will be fun!

OK, let’s begin with Harvey Norman.

With big brands I always like to start with domain names and trademarks.

They’ve set up the .com version to forward to the – full marks there.

Harvey Norman should probably buy some misspells, such as (the .com’s already taken) and forward them through to the main site.

It’s funny, when I looked up that particular misspell, Google returned a page from the Australian Domain Name Authority which has a list of thousands of other brand misspells.


I had a chat with a representative at the auDA and she informed me that the names on the list were “flagged”. If anyone tried to register them, the trademark owner would be notified first. Good to see the auDA taking a proactive stance on brand protection!

Too bad if you’re Perth Airport (which don’t own – because a squatter beat them to it). That’s a catastrophe. But I digress. Sometimes I can’t help it.

Harvey Norman does a great job with its reputation management; it owns lots of domains which tie up the top 10 at Google for a search on their brand:


This helps to keep the bad news at bay (that is, sliding Harvey Norman share price articles from the Sydney Morning Herald tend not to get a Google top 10 look in!).

What’s odd is the design consistency across the sites. They all look quite different and you’d think they’d all maintain some kind of thematic style. Maybe that’s just me being picky.

The main site is really just a giant catalogue – and as I’ve mentioned before, there’s virtually no way that I can see of measuring its effectiveness (or ROI).

The thing is, there are two kinds of people:

  1. People who research “in store” and then go online to find the product they like cheaper.
  2. Those who research online and then buy.

So why not add some coupons on the site for each of the products in the catalogue? People can print them out and then redeem them for a discount in-store (against the product they want to purchase).

By reconciling the coupons, you know what kind of revenue the website is helping to deliver offline. It’d make the franchisors happy.

I’d say there’d be a few people who wander into Harvey Norman, find what they want and then buy online through

Anyway, let’s now look at JB Hi-Fi – (Oh JB. You’ve done it again!).

This is interesting because JB Hi-Fi takes “advantage” of the fact that Harvey Norman hasn’t registered its trademark with Google. This means JB can bid freely with AdWords on Harvey Norman related searches. In fact JB Hi-Fi seems to bidding on all their competitors.

Here are some recent screenshots:


Here’s another…


Oh… and here’s another…


I’d seriously hate to think how much those clicks are costing JB Hi-Fi! With Google’s quality score system, I’d estimate they’re being forced to bid at least $6.50 a click just to have the ad appear; it could even be as high as $13.00! Yikes!

So when Richard Uechtritz from JB Hi-Fi says online retail makes “bugger all”, it’s probably because their Google AdWords campaign is costing them a fortune!

Hate to sound like a broken record, but the lesson here is to protect your trademarks to stop people bidding on your brands using AdWords. Visit Google’s trademark ‘protection’ page here to lodge yours.

JB also uses a similar system to Harvey Norman insofar as it has created some mini sites (satellite sites) that are thematically relevant to each site:

The site is noisy and cluttered (a bit like its TV ads!) – a design nightmare in short! But it does do a nice job moving folks on to the online shopping store.

Where are we headed in 2009?

From our perspective, it’s going to more and more mobile focused. We’re seeing some amazing numbers of iPhone use in the analytics of our client sites. The charts are going exponential month by month.

Some of our clients are already considering investing in iPhone Apps based on the amount of people who are visiting their sites using the iPhone already.

I think it’s pretty obvious .mobi domains are a waste of time. Because you can browse almost any normal site with an iPhone (with the exception of full flash sites which the iPhone currently struggles with) it means there’s really very little reason to buy a separate domain for exclusive mobile phone use.

Anyway, have a great Christmas and (if they’ll have me), I’ll be back to blog on in 2009!


Chris Thomas heads Reseo, a search engine optimisation company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.

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