Qvc the unlikely juggernaut of mobile shopping – the washington post electricity song lyrics


When the iPad was introduced in 2010, that was a game changer, according to Alex Miller, QVC’s senior vice president of digital commerce. “That device, in particular, was a natural place to apply something that was really core to our business model,” Miller says.

And that’s when QVC doubled down on designing a user experience that was tailored not so much for shopping on the go as for shopping from the couch. Today, when you open the QVC app, you instantly see the item that is on-air at the moment. Just below that, there’s a prompt that allows you to quickly find everything that has been on TV in the past several hours.

The shopping channel has also moved to make it especially easy to make a purchase on a small screen. (Many retailers have found that mobile shoppers get turned off by checkout processes that involve too much typing.) If you have a QVC account and an Apple device equipped with Touch ID, you can check out in less than 10 seconds by hitting the “Speed Buy” button and then letting the app scan your fingerprint. To get customers comfortable with the new technology, the network ran segments on-air featuring QVC host Antonella Nester explaining how to use it.

These efforts have helped QVC’s mobile sales grow to comprise 40 percent of its e-commerce sales, an unusually big share at a time when many retailers still find shoppers largely engage with them on these devices to scan prices or check store hours.

When you walk through Product Central, the vast headquarters warehouse packed with 300,000 items soon to be featured on air, you can see the wide assortment of items it sells: A roller cart stacked with electric chain saws is wedged between a stash of Christmas decorations and a rack strewn with leather kimono belts.

But Doug Howe, executive vice president of merchandising, says the mix of items has changed. Electronics have become less of a focus as it has become easier to find and price-compare such items on the Web. QVC’s sales in this category have been soft lately.

In these and other categories, QVC is focused on providing exclusive products, meaning an item sold only on QVC or offered in not-otherwise-available colors or packaged with special extras. For example, on a Clarisonic Mia2 Sonic Cleansing System, QVC had a limited-time exclusive on four colors of the scrubbing gadget. The company also offered it in a configuration different from what was available from other retailers, including a year’s supply of brush heads.

That is why the company has invested heavily in new ways of reaching customers, such as something called the “post-purchase video.” QVC has created a stable of Web-only videos on such topics as how to assemble a Dyson vacuum cleaner or four ways to style a scarf. On the day it expects a product to show up on a customer’s doorstep, QVC will automatically e-mail her the related how-to video. Miller says these e-mails have “extremely high” open rates and watch rates.

It’s not just the products, though, that have been essential in cultivating customer loyalty: QVC has built a stable of on-air hosts that regular shoppers have come to trust as experts. The channel’s latest breakout star, cookware show host David Venable, has seen more than a half-million copies of his cookbooks sold on QVC.

But Liberty Interactive, the company that has wholly owned QVC since 2003, made a bold play this year that seems aimed at snuffing out the age problem. Liberty spent $2.4 billion to acquire Zulily, a flash-sales (or deal-of-the-day) site that has gained a strong following with millennial moms.

The deal just closed Oct. 1, so the brands are in only the earliest stages of figuring out how to cross-pollinate their audiences. George says that perhaps in the future, Zulily or its vendors could have a TV presence and that perhaps they could try to lure Zulily shoppers to QVC with targeted content and promotions.

As QVC moves deeper into the online fray, it must continue to watch out for competition from the rival it most closely resembles: HSN. That St. Petersburg, Fla.-based network was the original home-shopping channel. QVC (short for “Quality, Value, and Convenience”), founded in 1986, has since overtaken HSN in sales; the $6.1 billion it pulled down in the United States last year was more than double the $2.5 billion reported by HSN. And QVC now has networks in countries such as Germany, France and Italy and a joint-venture in China, while HSN is only on-air in the United States. (QVC’s parent company, Liberty Interactive, owns a minority stake in HSN.)

QVC channels are now available in 340 million households worldwide, and the company plans to add a new international market to its lineup roughly every 18 to 24 months, with an eye on emerging markets such as Brazil and India. But even as it is beamed into more living rooms across the globe, QVC is keenly aware that young shoppers stateside are often not signing up for cable subscriptions.

George says this doesn’t worry him terribly. Just as people have largely continued to watch sports live, George says, QVC customers seem to like the sense of urgency created by shopping in real time, whether they are watching via cable or Internet streaming.