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Harry and David shuns responsive design for customized experiences

Harry and David

Harry and David's mobile-optimized site

PHILADELPHIA - Gifts retailer Harry & David has opted to maintain separate Web sites for mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers despite the added costs because it feels the strategy allows it to better control the customer experience.

The Medford, OR-based company spent the last few years overhauling its legacy technology systems. While it weighed the implementation of responsive design in that process, the company decided such technology was not quite ready for prime time. 

“We made a decision early on that responsive design is not quite there yet,” said Charles Hunsinger, chief information officer, Harry & David. “We have a tablet experience and a mobile experience and a desktop experience that are different. There are some added costs to that, but we thought it was best to have the best experience possible on each of those platforms.

“We want to have a good experience that is customized for each device, rather than one site that responds to each different platform.”

Mr. Hunsinger spoke Wednesday in a session called “Moving from the Past to the Future: Modernizing the Legacy of Your Business” at eTail East 2014 in Philadelphia. 

Risk versus reward 
Although it is a little more time-consuming and costly to maintain separate Web experiences for each type of device, Mr. Hunsinger said Harry & David felt it did not want to gamble on a technology that has not yet fully proven itself. 

“It was a matter of weighing risk versus reward, and we decided we did not want to take that risk,” he said. 

In overhauling Harry & David’s technology platforms, Mr. Hunsinger pointed out that it is important to consider the user experience for employees as well as customers. 

As a highly seasonal business that generates a large percentage of its volumes during the end-of-year holiday season, Harry and David has to ramp up its hiring each year to accommodate the demand. That translates into a big demand for training each year. 

“A good user experience is not just about the customer-facing experience,” Mr. Hunsinger said. “We hire thousands of people in the fall, and we need to have systems that are easy to use and easy to learn. 

“We focus as much on the internal-facing side of the technology as the external side.” 

Mr. Hunsinger said it is important to consider business processes when weighing technology upgrades. Sometimes it is tempting for marketers to layer on the latest technologies and features, but they should carefully consider how these features will fit into the overall business processes and objectives. 

“Don’t forget about process,” he said. “It’s not just about technology.” 

Mr. Hunsinger also gave some advice about hiring outside vendors for technology upgrades. Such external expertise can be helpful, especially if marketers have immediate needs or lack internal expertise. 

In any case, vendor partners for technology upgrades should be evaluated carefully, and responses to requests for proposals should be investigated. It is often best to partner with vendors that have strong resumes in the area in question. 

“In my experience, you want to go with the experience,” he said. 

Final Take 

Mark Hamstra is content director at Mobile Marketer, New York

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Related content: Content, Harry and David, responsive design

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