For Jill Braff, joining HSN was about a challenge. After all, she “grew up in the gaming industry,” as she said, working at Glu Mobile, a mobile game publisher; The Learning Company/Mattel Interactive; Sega of America, and Nintendo of America.
This story first appeared in the June 15, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“[HSN] had a problem they were trying to solve and a story they were trying to tell,” said Braff, executive vice president of digital commerce at the interactive multichannel retailer. “HSN was talking about something compelling — transactional innovation. We have these channels that we drive $3 billion in business through. How are the channels different? What are the insights that make them bigger than the sum of their parts?”
Braff admitted there was another factor in her decision to join HSN. “I met Mindy Grossman,” she said. The chief executive officer of HSNi has lured several key executives, one from as far away as London, to the company, based in St. Petersburg, Fla. Braff said she joined HSN over the protests of her 10-year-old son, who preferred San Francisco.
HSN has evolved, Braff stressed. She demonstrated how HSN last year told the story of Mary J. Blige when it launched her Carol’s Daughter fragrance.
“Our strategy was to leverage Mary’s story, what she’d been through,” Braff said, referring to the singer’s physical abuse as a child, then as an adult, her drug habit and battle with depression. Braff showed a commercial for Blige’s fragrance. “We have an ability to tell a story through these different channels. My Life,” whose tag line is, “A fragrance that embodies the soul of a queen.” “My Life,” which had the biggest 360-degree marketing campaign HSN had ever undertaken, sold 100,000 bottles in 13 hours, she said.
In terms of technology and transactional innovation, HSN is still “at the beginning,” Braff explained. It’s starting to incorporate video on its Web site and is live-streaming TV in HD on its iPhone app. “We’re the leading retailer with content on YouTube,” she said. “Our customer is using us in multiple channels. We [developed] one seamless shopping cart for all of them.”
HSN’s fastest-growing channel is mobile, Braff said, “because it’s with her all the time. She has a desire to be in touch.” The network also offers video-on-demand with the ability to customize video channels while simultaneously browsing products.
Perhaps most surprising was the news that adult women are most likely to play games. HSN launched an arcade with games such as mah-jongg and crosswords that “combines three things women love: shopping, playing games and sharing with friends.” Prizes, badges and rankings act as incentives for consumers to play.
“Transformation is not without risk,” Braff said. “HSN is undertaking big changes that are dynamic, but always with the consumer at the center of everything we do.”