Harry and David (www.harryanddavid.com)

Do not adjust your monitor. Those fiery apples, brilliant plums, and glistening, golden pears are par for the course on Harry and David’s Website. The life-size images of fresh fruit don’t even take up the full computer screen, but they tell the viewer what Harry and David is about with an eloquence that words could never achieve. The dramatic imagery does come at a price, however: “The home page is a bit slow to download on a 56K modem,” says a judge.

Harry and David’s copy doesn’t even try to match the drama of its pictures. Instead it emphasizes the freshness and value of its hand-selected fruits and the quality of its other premium foods in clear, concise language. Although one judge finds that the copy mutes some of the excitement generated by the luscious photos, others applaud the honest quality of the unpolished tone of voice. They claim it makes the company friendly and approachable, a significant advantage in overcoming shoppers’ hesitancy to buy online.

Harry and David’s ordering system also encourages online shopping, by allowing users either to go directly into the order form, skipping over the instructions and the product pages, or to browse the selections, read the directions on how to order, and follow the step-by-step instructions. Express orderers may already know what they want, thanks to promotional offerings on the home page and throughout the site, or they may want to place their orders from a print catalog. In that case, they merely need to enter the catalog SKU into the online order form, and the corresponding item will be entered into the description log. If an item is out of stock, the user is notified immediately.

Judges also rave about Harry and David’s “Harvest Report” section, where customers can look for updates on how the weather has affected their favorite fruits and vegetables, which ones are in season and will be in the near future, and how Harry and David’s varieties differ from others. As one judge notes, “This is a great Web-based value-added feature. It can be upgraded frequently, and it provides an incentive for return visits to the site.”

For the price-minded shopper, Harry and David dedicates an entire area of the site to “Maverick” fruits, or specimens with visual flaws that prevent them from being sold as premium fruit. These are offered at discounts, but Harry and David carefully assures customers that aside from esthetic irregularities or blemishes, the items meet the company’s usual high standards.

The Website’s sales growth impresses the judges as much as the site itself, with one panelist pointing out that half of Harry and David’s Internet sales are to new customers. Clearly the company’s Web formula is on target. In the words of a judge, “Right place, right time, right product, right solution.”

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