Published: Thursday 23rd May, 2013
45 Epping Road
North Ryde NSW 2213
1300 13 9999
Retail computer technology
Harris Technology is a leading Australian computer technology retailer. It operates 8 retail locations across the country, a busy incoming call centre, and a high volume eCommerce site. All the sales and operational channels are performed with QuidsDb, a Visual FoxPro database designed to manage high volume, multi channel retail functions.
Update the existing eCommerce Web site to enhance the customer experience, deliver increased sales, and streamline QuidsDb to Web data transfers
Leading Australian computer technology retailer, Harris Technology, needed a fast, easy to use, content rich, real-time shopping site, that could handle high volume traffic, visitor configurable searches and views, visitor configurable accounts, and secure transactions; a site that could display over 20,000 active products, images and descriptions with seamless integration with back-end POS, incoming call centre, purchasing, accounting, CRM, and shipping channels.
The Harris Technology eCommerce site, www.ht.com.au, has been operating since 1995 when it was first built by Quids Technology to work with QuidsDb. Over the years, Quids Technology and Harris Technology made minor updates to the site; however it remained largely unchanged from the original. While the original site served well in building a strong reputation and loyal client base, there was a still a need to update the site’s appearance and functionality.
Some of Harris' design and business considerations for the updated site were:
- a fresh modern look
- in house content management and editorial control
- HTML, CSS, and design process control
- updated merchandising platform to renew customer interest
- a focus on meaningful, usable content.
Some of the technology requirements for the Harris Technology Web site update were:
- seamless integration with QuidsDb
- cleaner, more secure IIS integration
- ongoing support for selected third party tools
- integration with new third parties, CNET Channel and Endeca®.
A Web engine built by Quids Technology, driven by QuidsDb, populated by CNET Channel data
Quids Technology built the Harris Web engine in Visual FoxPro using template driven technology (based on West Wind Web Connect 4.68) to achieve the seamless integration with QuidsDb as well as allowing for quick and easy Web development. Developing the site in Visual FoxPro produced outstanding performance results.
Using a good design and layout provided by Harris, excellent structured and rich product content provided by CNET Channel, outstanding data management – QuidsDb and Visual FoxPro, and extensive performance based development, Quids Technology built a very responsive, usable, content rich site.
As a VFP developer I'm very excited when I use the Harris Technology Web site; It's instantly clear how fast it works. The VFP database has been carefully designed to meet complex, demanding business requirements while catering for future enhancements. The result is an outstanding example of clever design built on a sound technology foundation. Visual FoxPro, applied well, is a formidable solution.
The Harris Web update was managed in 4 stages:
- Build, test, refine, and implement a functional data driven site without any interruptions to normal business trading. Harris provided the site’s HTML and CSS, then Quids Technology wrote the Visual FoxPro code that integrated QuidsDb with the Web.
Quids Technology accommodated the new look and feel of the site by building extra marketing features into QuidsDb that allow product managers to toggle the display of graphic elements such as buttons and banners.
- Within days of the new site going live, Quids Technology was ready to implement the second phase of the Web update project. Integration of CNET Channel structured and rich product content was built into QuidsDb to ensure that rich, up-to-date and consistent product content is always displayed on the Harris Web site. Whenever a new part is added to Harris’ product range, QuidsDb can automatically add the part number to a request for product content from CNET Channel. CNET Channel responds by sending the part data to Harris; then QuidsDb imports the CNET Channel product content, configures it, and makes it available to the Harris Web site.
Before the introduction of CNET Channel product content, Harris Technology had to rely on manual maintenance of product information. CNET Channel’s granular data model, rich product content and extensive coverage provided the necessary fuel required to deliver rich content for Harris Technology’s Web site.
QuidsDb allows the Harris user to manage all aspects of the request/import process manually, or it can run automatically without any user intervention. QuidsDb provides full reporting on the data transfer process with a complete range of request / import status queries. QuidsDb allows a high degree of manual control by Harris product management and buying teams, which keeps IT overhead down and generates added value to the CNET Channel content solution. Users can use CNET Channel rather than being dependent on IT staff to supply and maintain structured and rich product content.
QuidsDb can handle any volume of product content transfers with CNET Channel; the initial import from CNET Channel into QuidsDb generated descriptions, specifications and images for over 14,000 parts, without degrading system performance. Product management staff run transfer requests on a regular basis, as needed. This means that QuidsDb can populate the Harris Web site with the most current, accurate, and relevant product content delivered by CNET Channel.
- The next phase of the Web update is the integration of an Endeca® Guided Navigation® system into the Web site.
- The final phase of the Web update project is the ongoing development and support of QuidsDb and the Harris Technology Web site. Quids Technology is committed to ongoing development and support of QuidsDb and the Harris site to ensure Harris maintains its status as a market leader, delivering the best product coverage across all brands in Australia.
During this first stage we were very focused on performance based development. The flexibility of VFP allowed us to approached the project with a development philosophy of desire performance, allow performance, and improve performance.
In practical terms this means that we coded for site speed and performance from the first line of code to the last, we eliminated any bottlenecks in the client’s hardware, network and software, and we constantly checked and refined every line of code. VFP’s ease of use was a big factor in getting this first stage right. We’re very happy with the results.
- Chris Sainty, Software Architect / Developer, Quids Technology
The Web update project resulted in a high performance, usable, state‑of‑the‑art, secure, content rich, real‑time, retail Web site that can grow to meet business requirements and consumer trends.
Benefits for the Harris Technology customer:
- Blistering speed in searches, page loading & image display: Visitors are rewarded with a responsive browsing experience; this gives visitors more time for product research and selection.
- Advanced, easy-to-use filtering & searching: The site responds to visitor demands, allowing them to navigate the site quickly, logically and efficiently.
- Configurable product view: Visitors can select to view either short or long product specification lists; this allows visitors to view the information they need, to make the best choices.
- Configurable search result display: Visitors can select to view search results in a list or as a grid with images; this allows visitors to skim text-only information, or browse through images.
- Consistent product data: Accurate, up-to-date product information, displayed consistently across the site, makes the site easy to use; visitors know they will always find the best available product information, in the same place on every product page.
- Real-time displays: Real-time stock availability and order status displays give the visitor confidence in the online ordering process.
- Extensive product comparison feature: By applying a granular data model from CNET Channel, Quids Technology was able to build extensive product comparison functionality into the Web site. This allows visitors to perform side-by-side comparisons of product features, attributes and specifications.
- Manageable user accounts: Shoppers can manage and update account information, allowing them to be in charge of payment methods, and shipping and billing addresses.
- Secure transactions: The site employs the latest 128-bit encryption methods, giving shoppers reliably secure transactions.
- Consistency and reliability: Visitors can expect an exceptional shopping experience every time they visit the Harris site.
Benefits for Harris Technology:
- Fast development times: Working in Visual FoxPro allowed quick and easy Web development; Visual FoxPro allowed Quids Technology to build a very responsive, usable, content rich site well within project time lines.
- Powerful & reliable retail channel: The new Harris site is a powerful retail channel driven by a mature, stable, highly configurable Visual FoxPro database, QuidsDb, with reliable ongoing Visual FoxPro and Quids Technology support.
- Speed & performance: Blistering performance! The site is fast; it far exceeds the minimum performance target of a 12 hit per second throughput. Quids Technology devoted extensive development to delivering a site that could handle high volume traffic, display unlimited products, perform fast page loading, and return fast search results.
- Truly seamless integration: The site is built with Visual FoxPro for real-time integration with POS, incoming call centre, purchasing, accounting, CRM, and shipping systems.
- Improved network performance: The new Web site reduces network load while simultaneously improving performance and displaying more data.
- Integration with third party systems: Integration with CNET Channel’s DataSource Connector software provides automatic update of rich content and images, minimises the cost of managing vast amounts of product data, and keeps the site up-to-date and relevant. Product content from CNET Channel is imported daily into QuidsDb.
- Comprehensive data management features: Quids Technology added comprehensive data management features to QuidsDb, including a CNET Channel GUI to allow Harris' staff to take full control of the CNET Channel content. This keeps IT overhead down and generates added value to the CNET Channel content solution.
- Improved market presence and visibility: Quids Technology added search engine optimisation to the site through the use of friendly URLs and META tags to improve Google rankings; this results in greater click-through rates and improved market presence and visibility.
- Rich, well organised, formatted product data: The combination of QuidsDb and CNET data enables Harris to replace non standardised free-text product information from multiple sources with well organised, formatted, rich content.
- Allows for targeted promotions: The use of targeted promotions and specials on the site generates new visitor traffic leading to increased sales.
- Manageability: The site has been designed to allow Harris to manage the site's style, layout, and content without hiring special content managers.
- Graphic elements are easily managed: QuidsDb has new features that allow non technical users to manage the display of graphic Web element.
- Sticky & highly usable: The new site has enhanced search and compare features to allow visitors to find products and view full specifications; this keeps visitors shopping on site rather than comparing specifications with products on other sites.
- Flexible searches that work: Visitors have the ability to choose search filters based on category, brand, price and location; this facilitates visitor preferences and enhances shopping sessions.
- Renewed customer interest: The site was launched with a marketing scheme that included requests for customer feedback; this generated measurable customer feedback and renewed customer interest.
- Renewed market position: The new site has invigorated and renewed Harris Technology's market positioning in the online technology retail sector.
The project produced excellent results for all parties. Working with VFP gives us a lot of flexibility in developing applications to resolve our clients’ business challenges; we can respond quickly and effectively. We are very happy with the outcome.
- Rob Spencer, Software Development Manager, Quids Technology