QVC’s digital journey offers lessons for brick & mortar retailers

Oct 08, 2015

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 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":

  1. More than search – discover;
  2. More than information – stories;
  3. More than social – people;
  4. 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

Mike George, QVC – Photo:

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?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"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."

Join the Discussion!

5 Comments on "QVC’s digital journey offers lessons for brick & mortar retailers"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Chris Petersen, PhD
7 years 7 months ago

Summarizing the QVC lessons for brick-and-mortar stores:

  • CONTENT: Not just any content, but rich content that can be accessed anywhere in the journey, in ways that the consumer wants to access.
  • CONTEXT: QVC differentiates on “stories” … retailers need to provide consumers with some context of how products fit their lifestyles.
  • CURATED: Stores cannot stock everything, consumers are searching for retailers who will take the time to curate the best selections.
  • CONSUMER CENTRIC: The best quote from Mr. George is, “we let [consumers] take us wherever they want to be.”

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.

Adrian Weidmann
7 years 7 months ago

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.

Dan Frechtling
7 years 7 months ago

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.

Vahe Katros
Vahe Katros
7 years 7 months ago
Instead of being a warehouse where customers do the picking (I am talking about the modern store)—a mindset that’s a byproduct of retail zombies who think that life begins and ends with the Right Product, Right Person, Right Place, Right Price mantra—what we see here is the true heart of retail upgraded beautifully to embrace technology and adapt to culture. To be sure, the delivery of this theater is hugely aided by QVC’s format, but the essence—the magic is laid out here. This is what great retailers always cared about before bean counters and enterprise homogenization. Nice work Mike George, Shop.Org, Chris and Adrian—really nice content. Regarding what can be used? This advice will not work for all subsegments, but to embrace this retailers need to sell less stuff, stores might move in the direction of showrooms (at least a part of them) and retailers need to think about wrapping their SKUs around content that’s designed around the lifecycle of how a product fits into someone’s life. QVC is a different model, better suited to… Read more »
Seeta Hariharan
7 years 7 months ago
QVC has turned customer engagement into an art form. Rather than simply trying to entertain and influence purchase decisions at individual moments via one channel, QVC added digital and social in addition to their TV retail channel to deliver great customer experiences. They focused on remaining true to their goals which are centered on their customers’ needs and desires. Their goals also stress the importance of leveraging digital technology to help people engage with other people and to deliver not just great services, but great experiences. In addition to defining customer-centric goals, QVC demonstrated a willingness to turn a critical eye on how well they were fulfilling their goals across all channels. Taking a strategic approach to integrate the use of digital across the omni-channel is essential to being able to actively participate in the customer journey and effectively earn the customers’ business. Ways in which retailers can supplement channels and make the customer experience seem, well, more seamless include: Focus on owning the customer journey to ensure you make the right choices on the… Read more »
"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."

Take Our Instant Poll

Generally, how effectively are retailers at using digital to complement and enhance the brick & mortar experience?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...