HSN is keyed up about mobile commerce.
The channel is the fastest-growing online business for the 35-year-old company, with m-commerce sales for the first half of 2012 eclipsing the $65 million the network took in last year. HSN is on track to more than double this number by yearend, according to Jill Braff, executive vice president of digital commerce at HSN.
This story first appeared in the August 24, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Mobile really takes advantage of a few behaviors,” Braff said. “We know we have a core consumer who watches us on TV, and she has mobile devices such as her phone and tablet, and we can create a two-screen scenario that brings her into the show in a different way.”
Shoppers who interact across several channels spend upward of 50 percent more than a single-channel customer. Braff said their spending averages from $700 to $800 a year, but can jump up to $1,300 for the consumer who engages across several mediums.
“She’s also doing product research, as well, and for the consumers who may not be TV watchers, [we asked ourselves] how do we make that experience really rich when we think about mobile? We’re focused on this multichannel shopping behavior when consumers interact with us,” she said.
As a result, HSN has built its mobile-centric products around shoppers’ behavior. Braff explained that this consumer tends to be more of a hunter, and since she has less time on mobile, the retailer has begun to supply her with mobile recommendations related to items she may be “hunting” to give her more impulse buying or flash-sale opportunities.
Mobile also serves as a leading new customer acquisition channel, which means HSN must think about how to make this experience as seamless as possible across screens, whether it’s video on demand, streaming live broadcasts or a chat. Braff said if a user is on hsn.com and places a product in her cart, she should be able to have one cart on all channels. She can start a purchase on one screen and then complete the transaction on another. Focusing on performance here is paramount, as most people using the medium don’t have too much time.
“In digital, getting [performance] metrics to be positive equates to sales because, frankly, if she comes and has a problem, not only will she leave, but she won’t come back,” Braff said.
The executive said that e-commerce has been instrumental to HSN’s digital strategy since it launched its online shopping channel at hsn.com in 1999, turning a profit within three months. Currently, HSN sees between six and eight million unique visits a month. Electronics is the most popular category for e-commerce, but Braff contends that, judging by “Her Hub” — its beauty, fashion, accessories and retail portion — it’s the jewelry category that reigns as the bestseller.
Sales from e-commerce at hsn.com in 2011 constituted 34 percent of HSN’s total sales and the company has seen 8 percent growth on this channel in 2012 to date. E-commerce has grown 65 percent in the past five years, according to Braff, who attributes its success to the merging of commerce and content, a focus for the retailer since its inception.
“[We’ve been bringing] this to life every day through TV for the past 35 years, and now we’re looking at digital and how the consumer is changing. We see a great opportunity to really leverage the assets of the network, the same assets that have always made us,” said Braff, citing entertainment, commerce, content and community. “We have always had a thriving commerce business, and this [further] comes to life through e-commerce, whether shoppers are helping other shoppers or even live chatting with one another. There are many more ways for our community to help each other and connect to us through these digital platforms.”
But mobile and e-commerce aren’t just about the transaction, they are also an engagement vehicle that HSN leverages through its presence on various social media platforms. It entered the space in 2008 with MySpace and Facebook pages (it’s been active on YouTube since 2007), and a year later unveiled its first iPhone app, the HSN Shop App, which gave consumers access to shop on three screens: TV, online through its digital flagship and via mobile device. In 2010, HSN came out with iPad and Android apps, as well as HSN Mobile. In 2011, QR codes were integrated on TV to drive mobile sales and, in June of that year, digital gaming platform HSN Arcade launched.
Social gamification is shaping up to be a major focus for retailers and brands online, and in the 14 months since HSN welded shopping, gaming and sharing in the free, 26-game arcade, it has seen an astounding 69 million game plays. Of the games, the Today’s Special jigsaw puzzle, based on HSN’s “Today’s Special,” is the most popular, according to Braff, who calls the “casual gaming portal” an “incredible engagement tool.” As soon as the day’s special launches at midnight, a jpeg of the item is released for participants and the person who completes the puzzle in the fastest time wins the item.
“We want to be a poster child for social media and commerce, and we believe that our customer is so primed for social because she’s very loyal and has a lot to say,” she said. “We folded social into the whole HSN network, and the biggest change with digital here is that we recognize that the consumer is in the middle with all of these screens around her. It becomes the underlying river of conversation that brings commerce to life.”
Most recently, HSN and HBO unleashed a highly integrated partnership surrounding the launch of the Forsaken collection, inspired by the cable network’s show “True Blood.” The selection of beauty products ranges from Deborah Lippmann’s Sookie Sookie nail polish to a D.L. & Co. candle with a fang lid. The campaign included teaser promos, viral videos from the “Human Shopping Network” and “True Blood” trivia and social chats with members of the show’s production team. Braff revealed that the monthlong social campaign had 89.3 million impressions, 261,658 engaged users, 58,348 fans gained and more than 100,000 video views.
A series of All Access Birthday chats kicked off on Facebook July 1 in honor of HSN’s 35th birthday. The retailer tapped tastemakers such as Rachel Roy, Randy Jackson, Nate Berkus and Iman to foster engagement on the network’s social and mobile channels through live chats on Facebook.
From Sunday through Sept. 22, HSN will welcome its new fall collections with an elaborate multiplatform commerce experience called the Ultimate Trunk Show, in partnership with Elle magazine. Industry tastemakers will star in “how-to” videos spanning the fashion, jewelry, accessories and beauty worlds showing consumers their latest collections and must-haves for the upcoming season. The videos will live on hsn.com, HSN mobile and social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
“Digital is a very important driver of our overall business strategy as we work to provide content-rich experiences across all of our platforms that engage and inspire consumers,” said Mindy Grossman, chief executive officer of HSN. “We are committed to giving our customers the opportunity to experience HSN on her terms, whenever and wherever she chooses.…Our digital dress shop and House Beautiful Marketplace initiatives are recent examples of digital-first strategies that have allowed us to apply what we’ve learned online to our on-air programming and elevate the HSN shopping experience overall. Our goal is for her to want to interact with us every day — not just when she wants to shop, but when she wants ideas, information, relaxation or entertainment.”
In January, HSN partnered with technology provider Intel for HSN Touchwall, an interactive program designed to expand the reach with consumers beyond TV and the Internet through a collaboration with chef Wolfgang Puck. Users were able to engage by creating their own virtual pizzas using Puck’s signature products, and each received an e-mail or text on their mobile device following the experience with a shopping list and links to order the ingredients online.