Smart ideas abound at the Harvey Norman Student Project Competition
Various students across multiple business subjects at James Cook University in Singapore worked together to participate in a competition organised in collaboration with Harvey Norman.
James Cook University (JCU) in Singapore — in collaboration with electronics, home appliances, and furniture retailer Harvey Norman — held the finals of the Harvey Norman Student Project Competition on 29 September 2021.
Adaptability and resilience are at the forefront of many businesses amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the retail industry. The competition offered students the opportunity to tackle real-world challenges and to develop sharp insights into the craft behind sales. More than 70 students across multiple business subjects at JCU in Singapore formed 16 teams to participate in one of two themes:
- Seamless O2O2O (Online to Offline to Online) Marketing Solution
- Technology-based Practical Solutions
The projects were assigned by Harvey Norman, with the aim of helping the company to improve the customers’ “online-offline-online” shopping experience, aligned with the digital transformation of the retail industry. The students worked closely with supervisors from JCU, and visited three of Harvey Norman’s stores to collect primary data. By analysing the data, they devised various business solutions. Seven shortlisted teams were mentored by representatives from Harvey Norman for a week to hone their ideas before presenting them in the finals. Each of the seven teams were given 15 minutes to pitch their findings and recommendations, along with five minutes to answer any queries from the judges and audience. An SGD $1,500 cash prize would be given to the winning team from each category, and the remaining five shortlisted teams would receive SGD $400 each.
The judging panel for the finals comprised of:
- Mr Kenneth Aruldoss — Managing Director, Harvey Norman, Singapore & Malaysia
- Ms Bernice Kwok — Chief Operating Officer, Harvey Norman
- Ms Eloise Sim — General Manager - Marketing Communications, Harvey Norman
- Mr Shaun Mun — Assistant General Manager - Digital & Customer Experience, Harvey Norman
Among the many engaging presentations, there was a significant focus on making use of and maximising highly-advanced technologies — such as cloud computing, virtual reality and augmented reality — to meet customer needs. In an increasingly digital world, technology is essential to overcoming new challenges and supporting growth in the industry.
One of the highlights of the competition was the presentation from the team “Marketing Club 1”, which won in the “Seamless O2O2O (Online to Offline to Online) Marketing Solution” category. By surveying Harvey Norman customers and conducting research, the team was able to identify gaps in Harvey Norman’s strategy and propose reasonable solutions — chief among them was to allocate a geofencing structure to engage customers through location-based push notifications on their smartphones while customers browse within Harvey Norman stores. They also recommended implementing a customer loyalty programme and a Harvey Norman mobile app to increase engagement throughout every stage of the customer experience journey.
The winner of the “Technology-based Practical Solutions” was Team “Empty Coffee Cups”, whose presentation re-envisioned the Harvey Norman website with a more intuitive and user-friendly shopping experience. Some of these features include in-store shopping assistance, product comparison, and even offering a virtual home that customers can explore and use to experiment with matching different furniture items on an aesthetic level.
Mr Aruldoss said, “We’re interested in learning from the young people at JCU how they see the adoption of technologies help in the fast-changing retail landscapes and demands. It’s quite exciting to see what the students have shared, and there are definitely ideas that we can explore further.”
Dr Wang Pengji — lead organiser of the competition, and Associate Professor of Business at JCU in Singapore — said, “All of our students made great effort in coming up with all their solutions, and I hope that they cherish this valuable learning experience that will certainly give them an edge in the working world.”
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