Harvey Norman deploys Twitter strategy, floats online push

Retail giant Harvey Norman is focusing more on social networking to connect with individual customers, chief operations officer John Slack-Smith said at the CeBIT conference yesterday.

And although company chief executive Gerry Harvey has told SmartCompany online retail is a waste of time, Slack-Smith has forecast an eventual push into digital commerce – but it is still unclear what type of offering the company will provide.

Slack-Smith said during his talk yesterday the company is now using Twitter and Facebook accounts to connect with customers, dealing with problems and complaints when they arise to keep consumers happy.

“I’ve got a small team of people that do nothing but monitor and are positively engaged and/or respond in a very pre-determined way from both Facebook and Twitter,” he said.

The move comes as a number of larger companies are beginning to dedicate full-time teams to social networking. Global giants Dell and US telco Comcast were some of the first to develop teams, but smaller companies are now employing full-time employees to answer queries online and protect online reputations.

But Slack-Smith also said the company would be pushing online through other avenues. While Harvey Norman’s website only offers pricing details, and no option to purchase products, he said an IT systems upgrade will provide the necessary basis for change.

“Today we have nothing from online activities. Over the next three years, we won’t see a great deal of change in that regard either. But past that three years, in five to 10 years, we’re in for a wonderful and exciting change to what online activities will do to complement retail today,” he said.

“It will be the platform that will place our company to multi-channel growth in the next decade. It will include, order and pay and dispatch, tracking online, reserve and pick-up and order delivery.”

Slack-Smith was contacted by SmartCompany this morning for clarification on how this system would work for consumers, but he was not available for comment.

“The hallmark of our go to market over 20 years will be complemented by digital advertising in the future – which will take us into a new area, but won’t change the fundamental position,” he said yesterday.

“We will be marketing far more one to one to consumers, or as one to groups of consumers as opposed to whole communities.”

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