QVC’s digital journey offers lessons for brick & mortar retailers
In successfully transitioning from a TV retailer to a digital, multi-channel retailer, QVC focused less on matching the level of its TV shopping experience and more on complementing and enhancing it.
Speaking this week at the Shop.org 2015 Digital Summit in Philadelphia, Mike George, QVC’s CEO, said that companywide, QVC’s goal is to do "four things better than anyone else":
- More than search – discover;
- More than information – stories;
- More than social – people;
- More than service – experience.
Online, however, was falling short on all these goals and "felt a little bit flat and a little bit static" compared to its "rich and dynamic" TV shopping experience.
Mike George, QVC – Photo: Shop.org
In upgrading the online experience, the major focus was on better integrating the TV experience and creating relevance throughout the customer’s journey, especially the beginning and end.
That journey starts with "Inspiration and Entertainment." With TV shopping, that’s created by the "joy of serendipitous discovery," often with exclusive offerings, along with insightful and entertaining hosts and a focus on "real stories and real lives." Onllne, social media is now extensively used to reach new customers and "more richly engage" existing ones. Launches such as Halston are first brought to life through stories online to "build interest and enthusiasts long before it gets on air."
The next step in the journey, "Impulse to Buy," is often accomplished on TV through limited availability and countdown clocks. Online, the focus shifts to "second-screen experiments" designed to add value to the TV offering. As an example, recipes offered online might support a cooking show on TV. Said Mr. George, "All this information and rich storytelling will make them more likely to make a purchase."
The third phase, "Purchase and Receive," has been advanced online by creating a "simple and functional" browsing and purchasing experience.
Finally, "Own and Enjoy," has been significantly upgraded with e-mails regularly sent for any purchase, such as one offering tips on how to use a beauty device or how to set up a new Christmas tree.
Other steps in the digital makeover:
- Optimizing mobile: The focus is not only on ease of browsing and purchase but engagement. Said Mr. George, the shopper wants "mobile to be the best about what’s in our brand — not a narrowed experience."
- Social engagement: More than coupons and contests, social has to be organically driven. Said Mr. George, "For 20 years QVC has grown by word of mouth. We tell them stories. We let them tell us stories and let them take us wherever they want to be."
- Feeding the content beast: QVC brought together all its content creators to build "very purposeful content" under one platform with a focus on "creating great assets relevant to all stages of the journey."
In what obvious and less obvious ways can online supplement the brick & mortar experience and vice versa? What lessons does QVC offer around integrating channels?
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Summarizing the QVC lessons for brick-and-mortar stores:
The above is a lot of work! Far too many retailers find it much easier to just place products on shelves. What they are missing is that the four Cs above add up to the fifth C for CONVERSION.
Storytelling is at the core of marketing across all available channels to the digitally empowered shopper. The human experience is an emotionally engaged community built upon stories that bond us to each other. Brands that tell their stories AND allow their customers to tell and share their stories with each other will find success.
Brick-and-mortar environments are an ideal place where retailers and/or brands can create shopper experiences where members (consumers) of the individual brand communities can share their stories with each other in order to build that community.
All too often we see brands and retailers simply “digitize” and present their analog marketing assets and claim this as innovative shopper marketing. Rubbish!
Being successful at retail in the digital world means leveraging technologies to publish and deliver meaningful and emotionally stimulating stories to those empowered shoppers AND providing a means with which they, in turn, can share their stories with one another.
While all retailers seek to integrate channels, QVC is unique because it began on TV. And it has thrived there. Long ago it lapped HSN, which started broadcasting four years earlier than QVC.
Times are different today. QVC’s TV sales are declining, and it’s offsetting that with online and mobile channels. But it’s still growing at low single digits. Further, while it has created a selling “platform” that works across TV, web, mobile, and phone, it only has four retail stores.
Minimal brick and mortar presence, nascent online penetration, and aging demographics were all factors in the purchase of Zulily earlier this year…and keeping it a separate brand rather than folding it in to QVC proper. QVC’s biggest lesson may be that the brand is maxed out and future growth will come from new media properties.