Home (?) Shopping1 Jun, 2011 By: Doug McPherson Response
Shoppers who watch home shopping channels like QVC, HSN and ShopNBC aren’t always at home these days. That’s something those networks know very well, and now they’re doing something about it. And, yes, they have advice for DR vendors, too.
Those in the home shopping industry have had to start shopping themselves — for a new name. The word home doesn’t always fit these days.
No worries. They’re on it. They’ve already come up with taglines for this latest shift in consumer behavior. QVC has adopted the name “QVC Everywhere.” ShopNBC is calling its effort “ShopNBC Anywhere.” And earlier this year HSN rolled out “HSN ID” as part of a promotion where Sprint Android phone users can view and buy from live broadcasts.
Back in the day, it used to be when you thought of home shopping, you thought of, well, people shopping from home — sitting on the couch with eyes glued to a host and guest as they demonstrated the latest fashion in raincoats, the quickness of the latest laptop computer or the ease of a new sit-up machine.
But today, with mobile technology rising faster than gas prices, those same shoppers may be sipping a foamy latte in a Starbucks, driving (let’s hope not) or waiting for an oil change at Grease Monkey.
Moving to Mobile
ShopNBC is all in. The company has wasted little time ramping up to reach mobile markets, partnering with Usablenet, a mobile services firm, to develop a mobile-enabled version of its website so viewers can use mobile devices including iPhone, BlackBerry and Android to watch programming. They can also see live streaming at ShopNBC.TV and use social networking sites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
ShopNBC reports its mobile site was designed with a similar look-and-feel to its website. The most sought-after locations by their mobile shoppers include the retailer’s top promotions Today’s Top Value, On Air Now and Last 12 Items On Air.
Anthony Giombetti, vice president of marketing and communications for ShopNBC, says new and existing mobile shoppers can buy in a few easy steps and also access their account and order status as well as review a 24-hour online program guide and search for any product available on the site. Plus, ShopNBC has an iPhone application, which accounts for more than 40 percent of its mobile traffic.
QVC is in, too. In 2010, it launched its first iPad app, which is optimized for the 10-inch screen where customers can watch a full widescreen high-definition feed of QVC’s live broadcast and pull up videos on demand via mobile devices.
It’s also launched new iPhone apps including one for the designer Isaac Mizrahi, one for “In the Kitchen with David” and a QVC beauty app.
“The apps let our customers connect with their favorite hosts and favorite brands on the go,” says Todd Sprinkle, QVC’s vice president of media technology. “They enjoy search capability and access to product descriptions, sizing, available colors and additional images within the product detail.”
Sprinkle adds that he believes a multiplatform retail experience keeps customers interested, excited and engaged.
“Launching the QVC app for iPhone, the iPad, other smartphones and mobile devices means new ways of shopping for our customers — everything our customers love about QVC is at their fingertips,” Sprinkle says. “We have a very active customer community. They love to share their opinions and can do so live on-air, through our community boards on QVC.com and on mobile reviews. They also can connect with the QVC community on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It’s important to have a presence online; but it is also necessary to have a multiplatform retail experience that engages and impacts customers on every level.”
At HSN, Jill Braff, the company’s executive vice president of digital commerce, says expanding the company’s mobile platform is a “key strategic imperative.”
“Two elements are critical: differentiating each experience by device and providing customers with the ability to customize,” Braff says. “Mobile is one of our fastest growing platforms, and we continue to explore new technologies to create seamless transactions for our customers over numerous mobile devices.”
She says during the past year, HSN has launched applications for iPhone, iPad and Android, as well as a new mobile wireless application protocol site. The iPad app HSN launched in December lets customers build their own channels and create new “channels” dedicated to their favorite products and brands.
“This is an example of how we’re not just focused on being everywhere, but also providing consumers with tools to personalize and customize their access to content and commerce,” Braff says.
The benefits of mobile apps for customers are obvious and many, but there are some nice advantages for the networks, too.
ShopNBC reports it has found several reasons to go after these shoppers: They generate four times more revenue, have higher average order sizes and lower transaction costs-per-order, present cross-sell and upsell opportunities as well as one-to-one customer communication and retention.
“The beauty of transactions via the Internet or mobile is they cost less to capture and process than those that go to our call center,” says ShopNBC CEO Keith Stewart. “We’re also available to showcase a greater number of products through our online storefront, and we can cross-sell and upsell these customers through direct marketing and digital retention initiatives.”
Stewart and others in the business say interactive capabilities have transformed home shopping networks’ ability to forge stronger relationships with customers and to better respond to their needs. And of course, networks can share more product information, attributes and value with photos, text and video. Plus, interactive retail models allow home shopping channels unique flexibility to respond to consumer demand.
“Altogether, these factors will let us offer tremendous benefit to consumers who are on the move, pressed for time and looking to retail sources they can trust,” Stewart says.
He adds that ShopNBC’s 1.1 million customers continue to become more comfortable shopping and buying via online and mobile platforms.
Sprinkle says customers at QVC have embraced shopping on-the-go and that QVC expects customers will play a more important role in the content we provide.
“They’re eager for new ways to shop and interact, not only with QVC, but with each other, as a shopping community,” Sprinkle contends. “We expect that the rapid evolution of QVC’s business will only accelerate with the emergence of consumer technologies that enable customer-generated content and community interaction.”
Sprinkle reports response from consumers about its multiplatform evolution has been “overwhelmingly positive,” but wouldn’t release specifics on the mobile businesses. “I will say in 2010 we outpaced all our expectations,” he says.
Giombetti wouldn’t share details of ShopNBC’s mobile performance either, but did say that mobile E-commerce sales penetration is grouped with the company’s total E-commerce penetration. The company’s E-commerce sales increased to 44 percent of net sales in fourth-quarter 2010, and rose to 41.2 percent for the full year of 2010.
“We’re highly encouraged about mobile engagement by our customers, especially given the average TV shopping demographic for us is 50- to 60-years-old, and we believe mobile as a platform to be a rainbow maker going forward,” Giombetti says.
It’s the Experience
Direct response vendors interested in selling via home shopping channels these days need to think more about the experience for the consumer, according to Doug Rose, QVC’s senior vice president of multichannel programming and marketing. When it comes to these new platforms, the larger picture for home shopping — at least for Rose — is about the long-term experience for the consumer.
“We read and respond to real-time phone and Web feedback in increments of six seconds, but every decision is ultimately governed by a concern for what’s right for the customer long term,” Rose says. “In that sense, QVC isn’t really in the business of selling products; we’re in the business of pleasing customers. There’s a huge difference, and it affects everything we do. We know that while the productivity of our next five minutes will be driven by how compelling our product presentation is on our TV, Web and mobile platforms right now, the productivity of our next five years will be driven by how our customer feels about the whole experience of shopping with us. How will she feel when she receives the package and actually uses the product at home? Did it arrive on time? Did it live up to her expectations? Have we earned her trust, so that she will visit our store again?”
Giombetti echoes the idea about customer experience.
“We’re not in the business of selling stuff, but rather earning loyalty and connecting with people in highly demonstrable ways that are creating memories,” he says. “Consumers want to be a part of social commerce, and TV shopping has been doing that one-on one in real time for 20 years. We’re trying to help the consumer make a very informed decision in a discreet, unobtrusive way that’s easy to participate in.”
Giombetti says that vendors launching brands need to think not only about the three screens — TV, online and mobile — but also the inspiration behind a product. “We want to bring the product to life through the host and through instant access to designers and the inspiration behind the products and brands,” he adds.
He says with home shopping, it’s particularly easy to see customers voting with their wallets. “They do it every day here and the customer will tell you immediately if it’s on target or not and then you can adjust the price or do what you need to do.”
“We offer highly self-intuitive brand names and we have less than 60 seconds to grab their attention, explain what it is why it’s special and why they should act now,” Giombetti contends. “If you can do that, then you’ll reap the rewards.”
At HSN, Braff says the key to being successful in home shopping is to have a great product with a great story, told by a great storyteller.
“With all of the technology available to purchase products on-the-go, not just when you’re in front of your TV or at your computer, it is more important than ever to offer your customers the best curated and complimentary product assortment possible at great value,” Braff says. “It’s also important to create a personalized shopping experience for customers outside of the product that will make them want to shop with you more often.”
Who’s Watching Home Shopping Channels?
Kantar Media, a media monitoring and analysis provider in New York (and a research partner of Response Magazine), conducted a viewership study of 18 home shopping networks April 4-10 via 100,000 DIRECTV households. Here’s what the company found:
- Almost half (45 percent) of all households tuned to shopping channels. QVC had the highest reach (15 percent of households) of any of channel.
- The shopping channel audience steadily built over the course of the week (from early Monday morning until the following Monday morning).
- Almost one out of five households (18 percent) tuned to a shopping channel during primetime (8-11 p.m.) on weekdays, while about one in eight households (13 percent) tuned from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. on weekdays.
- During this week, tuning to shopping channels peaked at around midnight on both weekdays and weekend days.
- Households tuned to shopping channels averaged about 10 minutes per weekday and also per weekend day with these channels.
Yahoo!, HSN Partner With New Interactivity Feature
The content and communications giant Yahoo! Inc. is partnering with HSN and other networks and companies to introduce technology that would allow viewers to connect in real time during commercials or other branded entertainment experiences. Examples of broadcast interactivity could include:
- HSN — Viewers watching HSN could buy an item highlighted on the live show and take advantage of specials of the day, using their remote controls.
- CBS — Viewers of a particular show could view facts about the show and learn more about the actors, using their remote controls.
- Ford — TV viewers watching a Ford ad could find local dealers, customize their dream cars and view videos.
- Mattel — Viewers of a Barbie® ad could take Barbie polls, play Barbie dress-up games and watch Barbie documentary videos.
Karen Mahon, with Yahoo!’s corporate communications, says Yahoo!’s work with HSN is still in pilot phase and that the service isn’t yet available to consumers.