May 17, 2012, 10:12 AM

Suddenly famous, Harry Barker wins big online

Featured on 'Good Morning America', the retailer manages a rush of web orders.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Lead Photo

Jessica Gibadlo

When you’re a top dog on TV, it pays to have your online order and fulfillment running at full stride. Just ask pet supplies retailer Harry Barker.

Harry Barker is a designer, wholesaler and online retailer of products ranging from “eco-friendly” hemp-and-cotton dog beds to personalized gift buckets filled with canine toys. When it agreed to have its products featured in the “Deals and Steals” segment on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” show on Feb. 23, CEO Jessica Gibadlo and e-commerce manager Anna Sims worried at first that the big-time exposure could overwhelm the e-retailer’s ability to fulfill orders accurately and in good time.

“We were worried about the worst-case scenario,” Gibadlo says, having expected problems ranging from a possible rash of misplaced online orders to a frozen site unable to accept and process orders. “It could have been a completely missed opportunity for national exposure. If we didn’t execute well, it could have really hurt our customer service reputation.”

But like the top purebred at a big-time dog show, Harry Barker (named after founder Carol Perkins’ Sheltie) strutted its stuff quite well, the company says. “We had two months’ worth of sales in a single day,” Gibadlo says without offering details. On other days, the order volume was triple the site’s average. “It was massive,” she adds. “But the orders were all fulfilled.”

Harry Barker took several steps to make for a smooth transition from a niche web site to a nationally exposed one. It worked with Dydacomp, the provider of both its online order management software and SiteLink e-commerce site technology, to deploy an extra web server dedicated to handling customer orders. Harry Barker then batched the orders in groups of 30 before forwarding them to its warehouse. It also temporarily increased its warehouse and contact center staffs.

 “Good Morning America” viewers were instructed to go to the Good Morning America/Deals and Steals section on ABCNews.com, where they could find a link to a landing page on HarryBarker.com for special 50%-off discounts on merchandise. Both the HarryBarker landing page and the TV show’s host cautioned viewers that the special promotion could result in extra time to process and ship orders because of the expected high volume of visitors.

“We made it apparent that it could take 10 days for orders to be fulfilled,” Gibadlo says. “Overall, it went really well. It went way better than our expectations.”

The power of e-commerce that Harry Barker experienced through TV convinced the retailer to take additional steps to upgrade its e-commerce site, which is hosted by Dydacomp. “We realized what could be achieved when we got in front of so many people,” Sims says.

As a result, Harry Barker is working on improving its web design to make it easier for shoppers to log onto the site, present more cross-selling opportunities in the shopping cart, and more easily complete purchases. Although such improvements had been considered before, “Good Morning America made it more of priority for us,” Sims says. “As a small business with many competing priorities, it took GMA to make us see the power of the e-commerce channel.”

E-commerce technology will be covered in a number of sessions at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012  next month, including a session titled “Cross-Channel Commerce: Techniques and technologies to leverage,” presented by retailers Katherine Goodman, vice president, e-commerce, The Talbots Inc., and Peter Taylor, director of business development and e-commerce, Sport Chalet.

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