Magazine Article | March 1, 2018

Inside QVC's Digital Domination

By Erin Harris, editor-in-chief

Worldwide, QVC engages shoppers over 15 broadcast networks reaching more than 360 million homes, seven websites, and 195 social pages. Founded in 1986 by Joseph Segel and headquartered in West Chester, PA, QVC, an $8.7 billion business with broadcast operations in the U.S., Japan, Germany, U.K., Italy, France, and a joint venture in China, combines the best of retail, media, and social to create an extremely engaging shopping experience. In the U.S. alone, QVC presents on average 770 products on-air every week, approximately 23 percent of which have not been presented previously. In Q3 2017, QVC’s e-commerce channel was 48 percent of consolidated global revenues and 54 percent of U.S. revenues, with mobile accounting for 64 percent of global e-commerce orders and 63 percent of U.S. e-commerce orders. Mary Campbell, chief interactive experience officer, explains how QVC continues to create and enhance seamless, memorable digital experiences for its 13 million customers.

LEADING COMMERCE PLATFORMS AT QVC
Campbell began her career at QVC in 1991 as an assistant buyer in accessories. She took a brief hiatus and worked for Target in merchandising for five years but boomeranged back to QVC, crediting the company’s liveliness and minute-to-minute excitement for her return. At QVC, Campbell has held various positions across the merchandising, planning, and commerce platforms.

The Commerce Platforms team consists of QVC’s e-commerce team, the digital marketing team, the broadcast organization, the content production team (i.e., the team that produces all assets — photography, pre-produced video, social platforms, and websites), and the interactive team, which works with the technology group to build new capabilities for QVC’s digital platforms. “I also work with the broadcasting organization, which is the team that produces all of our live content and some of our pre-produced content as well as oversees our talent or host team,” Campbell explains. “Commerce Platforms is a large, broad, and diverse team, and we work very closely with our technology and merchandising teams to bring the QVC experience to life.”

Commerce Platforms spins many plates, because according to Campbell, there is no such thing as a typical day at QVC, and she couldn’t be happier about it. “Every day is different — quite frankly, every hour here is different — and that’s what makes working here so exciting,” she says. “We work in a live environment; every time is prime time at QVC and, as such, my team has the ability to respond in real time to the customer’s reaction. My team is responsible for not only things that are happening in that very moment on live broadcast, for example, but they’re also working on strategies and capabilities for projects that will be delivered two years from now.”

Live programming for QVC, QVC2, as well as Beauty iQ, a multiplatform network dedicated entirely to beauty, is produced in the company’s global headquarters based in West Chester, PA . The company has one broadcasting team that creates the live content for all three multiplatform networks, and there is one merchandising team that provides all of the products and the inventory across each platform. Stop for a second to consider the enormity of that.

“We’re unique in that, from a retailer perspective, we really do have one singular team that supports and provides the strategy not only for the given product, but also for our inventory across all of our platforms. It helps us create a consistent customer experience no matter what platform our customer uses.” The same goes for broadcasting capabilities. QVC’s broadcasting team produces all of the live content, and the digital team, which manages merchandising across all digital platforms, creates a consistent customer experience, because the same team members provide the experience across multiple platforms.

MANAGING REAL-TIME INVENTORY IN REAL TIME
At any given time, QVC is managing its wide inventory assortment from one real-time inventory pool — second by second. “We ensure that we are live with our inventory and that we are delivering on our promise to the customer in terms of delivery,” says Campbell. “We have a DC facility here in Pennsylvania, as well as strategically located DCs in North Carolina, California, Virginia, and South Carolina. Many of our offerings include either bundles or products that are created just for QVC and for our customer, so product differentiation is extremely important for QVC.”

QVC curates an ever-changing mix of exclusive, high-quality products brought to life through storytelling by hosts, product experts, and unique, engaging video, social, and broadcast content. “With any other retailer, products simply sit on a shelf or are a picture on a website,” says Campbell. “QVC provides multiple platforms where our extended family of vendors can tell their unique story and demonstrate the product in a way the customer may not have seen elsewhere.”

QVC’s customer base of 13 million is predominantly female. Campbell describes the QVC customer as a savvy shopper who’s between the ages of 35 and 64 and a lover of shopping. She is highly engaged not only with the world, but also with her family and her community. She’s very social. She’s smart, and she’s an early adopter not only with product, but also an early adopter of technology. She really is looking for inspiration; she’s looking to connect with others; she’s looking for the story behind the product. “Our customer wants to discover new products. She wants to be ahead of the curve in terms of trends, and she wants to be informed, so she’s really looking for inspiration as well as the discovery of new ideas and new products.”

As such, the QVC team works tirelessly around the clock trying to bring new and differentiated products to the customer. This dictates their merchandising strategy that focuses on launching new products for vendors and, in turn, offering QVC-exclusive products to the customer.

“We work with a lot of product innovators; a good example is Jaime Kern, who was the founder of IT Cosmetics,” explains Campbell. “She launched her line here at QVC with one core product. She was able to tell her story to a broad audience on our platform, which was well-received because the consumer is interested in the stories behind the product and behind the innovators. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

EARLY ADOPTION CRITICAL TO BECOMING DIGITAL LEADERS
It’s obvious that QVC has mastered real-time inventory and unique merchandising. The company has also mastered what many retailers are still working on — meeting the customer where she is. QVC’s various platforms — television, e-commerce, mobile, and social — allow every customer to have a platform on which she’s most comfortable making the purchase. “More than half of our purchases take place on one of our digital platforms, and our fastest-growing platform is mobile,” states Campbell. QVC has evolved significantly over the last 30 years. Not only has the company transformed its experience from what was a linear TV viewing platform to a true multi-platform experience, but it has also continued to evolve how it engages customers across many platforms.

The QVC.com platform launched in 1996, and the company focused on ensuring that the consumer could make the right decision on that platform and have a frictionless experience. For example, the early onset of the “speed buy” option on QVC.com enabled the customer to have a seamless and quick transaction. The company optimized its site for mobile in 2009 — early by industry standards at the time. That same year, QVC proved its commitment to early adoption again by launching its mobile app. “Our transition to a multi-platform leader has been a direct result of our innovative customers,” says Campbell. “She’s an early adopter to mobile technology, and she has expectations that she will be able to engage with us across many platforms. We were also early with our experiences on our social platforms, because we know our consumer is a highly social, engaged consumer. We were an early adopter of Facebook Live, where we now simulcast 100 hours a week from our three U.S. networks.” From a customer service perspective, QVC was also an early adopter of Facebook Messenger.

MORE SOCIAL SUCCESS
QVC can be found on all of the relevant social platforms including Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. “Facebook is such a huge and powerful platform right now. It’s not only a social platform; we also look at it as a network, because it has the ability to distribute live content, which is similar for us as one of our cable providers or an OTT (over-the-top) platform.”

Facebook is another distribution platform for QVC’s live video, and it’s also interactive. “If you’ve ever had the opportunity to view our Beauty iQ experience, you’d see that we simulcast that experience live, and we’re interacting with the viewer in real time. She asks questions, and our host answers those questions in real time. We have people who do demonstrations, and we have a lot of the influencers on that network. What you see is an experience where she can not only watch it through the broadcast on her TV, but she can also watch it live on Facebook. Then she can interact with us. These new platforms allow for more interaction and participation among our customers and our experts and hosts, which provides for an engaging, personal experience. We know the live experience is really powerful in that it’s very authentic — and our customer understands and appreciates the meaning of that. Through that authenticity, we’re able to create a real relationship with her and also connect her with other customers and influencers in the community who share similar interests.”

LEVERAGING OTT MEDIA SERVICES
QVC’s increased presence on OTT platforms, such as Roku and Apple TV, have enhanced its connection for the customer. These new platforms offer opportunities for QVC to continue to expand its reach and expand the distribution of content. “The OTT platforms allow us not only to extend the reach of our live video content, but also to now offer her more pre-produced content and have that bundled in a way where it can be tailored to her areas of interest,” she says. “What she views on our Roku experience is what’s available on all of our networks at one time on that app, as well as some of our best of programming, and maybe even some unique and proprietary programming. She now has the ability to engage with more content — not just the live content, but also some of our pre-produced content. Our OTT platforms give her the ability to delve deeper into the areas in which she’s most interested. These platforms have allowed us to provide her more content in one place, and it’s resulted in more viewing time. It’s increased viewing time of our content.” Campbell explains that QVC’s mission is to extend its reach and provide content everywhere its customer wants it. Wherever she is, QVC extends its content to those engagement or touchpoints.

MORE MOBILE FEATURES MEAN HIGHER CONVERSION
QVC prides itself on blurring the lines between technology and the business, because the various teams work together to anticipate — and then develop — meaningful experiences across useful platforms for the customer. “We have evolved across all our platforms as evidenced by our recent refresh of our iOS apps,” Campbell explains. “Our iOS phone app was released last year with a great deal of new functionality. For example, one of the unique things we’ve included is presenting the actual live broadcast on the app’s home page.” New mobile features and functionality have translated into the customer spending more time on the platform as well as higher conversion rates on mobile.

The QVC Group itself is a true multi-platform retailer from broadcast to digital to social platforms. QVC’s evolution is thanks to its robust platforms as well as its commitment to early adoption. For sure, decisions like being an early adopter of Facebook Live, the investment in Roku, and more have helped QVC extend its digital reach, as well as to provide the customer with additional ways to view its content. Campbell concludes, “We want to be where she is. That’s what she expects of QVC, and so that’s what we deliver.”