E-mail bells and whistles drive clicks for Harvey Norman

The Australian retail chain boosts open rates by making e-mails more relevant.

Allison Enright

Harvey Norman, an Australia-based chain retailer of home furnishings and consumer electronics, has always prided itself on its “customer first” approach to service. When it launched a more robust web strategy a few years ago—it added e-commerce in 2011—it wanted to extend that service approach to its digital channels, including its e-mail marketing program.

The retailer, using data gathered with Adobe Systems Inc.’s Omniture analytics software and filtered through Lyris Inc.’s digital marketing platform, has been able to improve the relevance of the e-mails it sends to consumers. In turn, that has helped the chain increase its e-mail open rates to three times the industry average, the retailer says. The average open rate for e-mails sent by retailers stands at 21.3%, according to a 2013 e-mail marketing metrics study from marketing services provider Silverpop.

Harvey Norman uses a handful of techniques to customize e-mail so it is more relevant to shoppers. For example, when a consumer signs up to receive Harvey Norman e-mails, she receives a series of three welcome messages. The first welcome e-mail includes a coupon code she can redeem on her first online purchase with the retailer, but it is valid for just 48 hours. This message includes a countdown timer showing how many hours, minutes and seconds remain on the offer.

The retailer also uses IP data to determine a customer’s location at the time she opens the message and includes a map to the nearest Harvey Norman store—there are 213 in Australia. Messages are also designed to render well regardless of the device a consumer is using to read them. That means if a consumer is using her smartphone to open a message she’ll see a different layout than if she were opening the same message on a desktop computer.

Harvey Norman also integrated its digital marketing program from Lyris with its e-commerce platform, eBay Inc.’s Magento. Matched up with Omniture analytics, the Lyris program designs e-mails for consumers based on the actions they’ve made on HarveyNorman.com.au. For example, a consumer who browsed computers may shortly thereafter receive an e-mail with the message: “We thought this computers buying guide may be useful.” The message includes a description and link to the buying guide and a message that prompts the consumer to  meet the retailer’s computer specialists in the store.

“We’ve been very impressed with the capabilities of the platform to manage the scale of our digital marketing programs,” says Dan Hosford, head of digital marketing for Harvey Norman.

Harvey Norman Online is No. 52 in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Asia 500, which ranks the leading e-retailers in the Asia-Pacific region by their web sales. Harvey Norman, with an Internet Retailer-estimated $168.4 million in 2012 web sales, is the second-largest online retailer in Australia, behind daily-deal retailer The Catch of the Day Group, which ranks No. 37 with $302.0 million in 2012 web sales.  


Adobe Omniture, Australian e-commerce, Dan Hosford, e-commerce, e-mail marketing, eBay Inc., Harvey Norman, Lyris, Magento, Silverpop, The Catch of the Day Group