Throughout its extensive history, QVC has focused on remaining relevant to consumers by tailoring marketing and commerce strategies based on her unique preferences.
Founded in 1986, QVC has crafted compelling shopping experiences using television broadcasts. But now, the retailer is exploring and optimizing e-Commerce as its target customers continue to go online.
In Q3 2014, e-Commerce accounted for 39% of global revenues — an 11%increase from the same time in 2013 — and mobile accounted for 43% of that, according to Alex Miller, SVP of Digital Commerce at QVC. However, “mobile remains our fastest-growing platform, and we’re continuously investing in new technologies and features that deliver a seamless and engaging customer experience.”
With consumer confidence rising steadily, QVC is uncovering new campaigns and tactics to drive sales across channels. In the below Q&A, Miller shares details on these initiatives and spotlights lessons the retailer has learned as its gone through its omnichannel journey.
Retail TouchPoints (RTP): How have the browsing and buying behaviors of your target consumers changed or evolved over the past few years?
Miller: QVC has some of the most loyal customers in the world. Our customer retention rates are unparalleled in the retail industry averaging 90% consistently over time. We understand our customer base extremely well and are always paying attention to her changing tastes and preferences.
One way we do this is by measuring and tracking micro-conversions (activities that users engage in with a brand before purchasing). These activities are an important component of a satisfying customer experience and they give us a better understanding of how our customers engage with our channels.
For example, as we’ve evolved and improved our customers’ ability to self-service on our platforms, we have seen customers visiting our platform to do a quick check on their order, or change an upcoming shipment of food they may have on auto-ship. If we only looked at purchase conversion rate in the aggregate, these activities would look like unproductive customer traffic. However, by studying specific customer engagement paths, we see that overall engagement is increasing. We also see that our more engaged customers are engaging with QVC across multiple platforms (desktop, mobile web, iPad app), sometimes within a single day. Looking at those visits separately would lead you to believe they were less than productive, but looking at them together paints an accurate picture of a more engaged, more loyal customer.
Despite this insight, we don’t solely rely on pure revenue attribution or conversion to measure the effectiveness of an omnichannel investment or determine customer satisfaction. We consider the full breadth of interaction the customer had with us prior to the purchase, and continue to engage with her after the purchase, as well. We’re using the change in customer behavior from single-to-multi-device usage, for example, to guide our investment strategies in new technologies and platforms.
RTP: Did QVC face any initial challenges while venturing further into digital commerce and marketing?
Miller: Having a direct relationship with our customers has always been an advantage as we’ve expanded into new platforms. Things like pricing and inventory were centralized from the beginning, making it easy to layer in new platforms as they became relevant for our customers. Today, more than half our customers discover QVC for the first time on a digital platform. Our biggest opportunity is to bring the voices of our shopping community to life within the digital experience. The emergence of digital video and social networking has synced really well with our core strengths as a brand, so we’ve focused on integrating them into the experience where they make sense. Just as our TV programming is about more than just product, we needed to deliver that same element of entertainment to our digital platforms. As a video retailer, we had years of expertise in video storytelling, so we built that into our web site design. We encouraged our hosts and partner brands to create content to entertain and engage our customers such as décor tips, how-to videos, recipes and more.
Above all, we learned how our customers interacted with our brand in the digital space so we could give them more of what they want. For example, we now offer a responsive designed site, optimized cart functionality for mobile, and a second screen experience on the QVC iPad app.
Today, QVC offers a truly seamless, engaging and personalized consumer experience across all platforms, and we keep making investments for the future to drive continued e-Commerce growth.
RTP: How have you managed to keep the culture and brand history of QVC alive while embracing new technology trends?
Miller: QVC is built on the power of relationships. When designing our digital platforms we often ask ourselves, “How can we communicate QVC’s brand ideals to someone who has never seen our broadcast before?” We always want to make sure our relationship-based approach to shopping, and emphasis on the combination of experiences, discovery, stories and people — as a single experience comes through on all of our platforms.
For example, in 2013, we launched toGather, our own social community that enables customers to share their favorite QVC gifts, inspiration and product finds with one another. Customers can follow curated collections created by fellow customers and the QVC hosts and guests they know and trust. Like QVC’s on-air programming, this experience brings shopping, entertainment and social together as one.
To that end, we always look to convey warmth, a personal point-of-view and degree of humanity via every aspect of our broadcast programming, and this comes through on our digital platforms as well. For example, QVC’s bi-weekly “In the Kitchen with David” program featuring expert chef David Venable is interactive — enabling viewers at home to engage with David during the live broadcast through the QVC app and steer the content of the show through questions, comments and suggestions. The show has also driven growth of his social platforms, forging an emotional bond between us and our customers and viewers. This two-way interaction is the DNA of QVC’s customer relationship strategy, and creates long-term loyalty and deep viewer engagement.
RTP: Do you have any specific best practices for converging your television presence with new digital outlets?
Miller: Video is increasingly becoming more important to the e-Commerce experience, and some leading retailers already are leveraging its power. As an established leader in storytelling through our experience in TV programming, we’re at an advantage to extend that expertise to the digital space. We have taken the following measures:
- By bringing more of an editorial voice to our digital properties around product, shopping, trends, stories, must-haves, we’re able to tell a story around each product. It’s important to bring the same levels of trust and authenticity to every platform.
- Consumers are looking for a seamless and engaging experience across all the platforms they use to interact with brands. With the number of platforms, screen sizes and format changing on a monthly basis, QVC is focused on delivering right content at the right time on the right screen to meet customer expectations. Brands need to not only invest in creating a customized experience across platforms, but also in new elements that engage consumers.
- The shopping experience extends beyond the purchase. With the majority of our revenues coming from repeat customers, we understand that the post-purchase experience is as important as the inspiration that led to the initial discover of the product. We have invested resources and technology to ensure that customers not only enjoy a frictionless discover and purchase experience from QVC, but that we deliver content and service to allow them to love the purchase they make from us.
RTP: Based on results from the 2013 holiday season, what strategies will you focus on this year?
Miller: We found that our tagline and approach to the 2013 holiday shopping season, “All of the Joy, none of the craziness,” resonated well with our customers so we’re excited to continue with the momentum of that theme. Each year at QVC, we approach the holiday shopping season differently than traditional retailers. Our holiday engagement strategy deviates from the typical early morning door-busters and deep promotions. Instead of frantic trips to a crowded mall, we provide hassle-free shopping and inspired gifting and savings every day, all season long, from the comfort of home. On each QVC platform, we provide offer content for customers to find that perfect gift, or plan that perfect holiday gathering, without all of the stress typically experienced during this time.
We’ve found that mobile and social engagement were big trends last year, which we embraced and are continuing to prioritize in 2014. This holiday season, we’re offering QVC customers more opportunities to derive gift inspiration from our programming and social channels, but also to share or “socialize” content and gift ideas. The entire QVC community, including hosts, expert guests and customers, has great ideas for celebrating a joyous holiday season, so we’ve leveraged our digital and social channels to create new tools, such as the QVC Holiday Guide, the digital Advent Calendar and the hash tag, #AlltheJoy, so customers can stay up to date on all the holiday fun QVC will offer throughout the season and share their own holiday experiences.
In our observations of consumers’ holiday shopping behaviors, we looked at how they used mobile devices to conduct research, make price comparisons and share gift ideas. This year, we’re paying special attention to mobile. We’re also focusing on delivering a 360-degree integrated experience, no matter how and where our customers choose to engage with us. Another trend that’s catching fire for the holiday season is the pull back from the traditional Black Friday and Cyber Monday models, to a more extended promotional period. This shift is notable for us as our approach has always been to offer holiday deals and specials all month long, calling it: “Better than Black Friday.” This promotion kicked off on November 24th and featured special on-air offers and great value items through all of QVC’s platforms.