In a year where so many found themselves unable to enter stores for necessities and luxuries alike, HARMAN decided to continue adapting its eCommerce approach to meet consumers’ needs in these challenging times. While HARMAN has been focusing on a comprehensive eCommerce strategy for some time now, this year provided us with an opportunity to revisit our strategies and identify new ways to meaningfully engage with consumers in an effort to deliver enhanced buying experiences. To learn more about our eCommerce efforts in 2020, which will likely impact our plans for next year and beyond, we spoke with Dave Spinato, Vice President of Global eCommerce at HARMAN, about the wins and lessons this past year brought to our eCommerce vision.

1) Bring us back to the spring of 2020. What were some of the first pivots the eCommerce team began to implement as lockdowns, work from home, and social distancing measures started to become more widespread and long-lasting?

Dave Spinato: Once the coronavirus crisis became a true pandemic, HARMAN made some key adjustments to our business operations:

  • We immediately pivoted our marketing efforts to focus on ways HARMAN brands could support this new way of living. We quickly shifted to promote products that could truly help consumers with work-from-home and remote learning challenges, such as headphones and microphones.
  • As the pandemic’s impacts on offline business worsened, we ensured we had the proper level of inventory dedicated to our direct-to-consumer business. From an operations perspective, we also had to reallocate products from our offline business, while being sensitive to our own manufacturing challenges, across the globe.
  • Incremental investments were key this year. We pursued investments specifically around conversation media as we started to see huge returns on our ad spending. 

2) Did HARMAN notice or make any major changes to its eCommerce strategies and methods this year? If so, did they yield unexpected results? 

DS: Interestingly, older demographics started looking more to eCommerce as their preferred shopping method. We also took advantage of the extended holiday shopping windows, which were new this year. HARMAN followed industry trends by offering holiday pricing in early October, to support key events like Amazon Prime Day, as well as early November, to help consumers get in front of congested holiday shipping periods.

Historically, the Cyber 5 (Thanksgiving Day – Cyber Monday period) has been a critical time for direct eCommerce sales. While this was still the case for HARMAN, the expanded holiday period combined with Amazon Prime Day boosted residual sales in the U.S. during Q4 compared to the previous quarter, as we’ve seen in other years.

A record-breaking Cyber 5

2020 was a record-breaking event for HARMAN. We delivered more than 38% growth in yearly demand across the US and EMEA regions. Black Friday was the single largest day for product demand in HARMAN’s history, with Direct eCommerce increasing 45% from 2019. This surpassed last year’s single-day record, which also happened to be Black Friday. HARMAN also outpaced industry eCommerce growth during both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. While the industry grew year-on-year globally more than 30% on Black Friday and more than 18% during Cyber Monday, HARMAN finished Black Friday with more than 45% in sales & Cyber Monday with more than 21% in sales across both the U.S. and EMEA regions.

  • Shoppers are increasingly trending toward mobile shopping on HARMAN’s platforms. Mobile eCommerce generated 55% of Cyber 5, while Black Friday delivered our highest mobile conversion rate ever of more than 22% compared to the previous year.
  • Average Order Value increased more than 36% during Cyber 5 due to a push on higher-priced items, especially on Thanksgiving Thursday and Black Friday in the U.S. This brought our year-to-date Average Order Value to more than 5%, when compared to the previous year.
  • In the U.S., 98.5% of backlog orders were cleared within 5 days following Cyber Monday.

3) The correlation between people spending more time at home and physical store closures has created an unprecedented jump in digital sales. Have there been any particularly surprising trends to come out of this?

DS: It’s been fascinating to see how quickly retail, particularly brick and mortar stores, across all industries have adapted to store closures and increased online orders. From offering partnered delivery methods via services like Instacart to having curbside pick-up, we need to keep our eye on these trends. Retailers offering creative pickup options like BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up in Store) experience higher growth in sales compared to retailers who have a simpler fulfillment option.

4)  Has any product family seen a significant increase in sales?

DS: Our headphone category (specifically True Wireless Headphones) surpassed our bread and butter portable speakers category from a demand and revenue perspective in 2020. While our overall growth in headphones has been fantastic, this shift is likely attributable to our new way of living, working and schooling. 

5) How does the eCommerce team plan to keep this momentum going as we inch toward a post-pandemic world?

DS: We are investing in more stable infrastructure and architecture, which will help us improve our go-to-market speed with new features, reduced page load times, and a focus on a mobile-first checkout and improved maintainability. We are also looking at additional fulfillment options that will eventually support same-day and/or hourly delivery in the future.

As we head into a New Year in hopes of a truly post-pandemic world, HARMAN is excited to take our renewed eCommerce strategy into 2021 and help us continue to transform our business and marketing approach. This year, our consumers made it clear – the future of eCommerce is mobile. We’re excited to integrate new technologies and strategies into our eCommerce operations, all to make sure we’re delivering better experiences to our consumers.