I have a confession to make. I’m a 36-year-old man and I love QVC. And HSN, and infomercials, too, for that matter. Yes, I do watch “normal” TV, but there’s something about QVC that fascinates me. I’ve worked in lead generation and e-commerce for almost 15 years, and I can’t think of a single organization I’ve come across that does a better job of generating and leveraging consumer insights.
QVC (short for “Quality Value Convenience”) was founded in 1986, back when the Internet was an academic phenomenon and smartphones were the stuff of science fiction. Catalogs were still a prominent vehicle for selling merchandise, and you could argue that QVC took the catalog and put it on the device available in the most homes at that time: the television.
Fast forward to present times, and QVC still commands an impressive share of the consumer marketplace, adapting and morphing to keep pace with – if not a step ahead of – digital competitors like Rakuten and even Amazon. So what can other brands learn from this quirky company with a cult-like following?
QVC is a people-driven brand. Hosts like David Venable, Amy Stran and Courtney Khondabi are as popular among their loyal fans as any movie star or pro athlete. They enjoy strong followings not just on the network but across each host’s social media platforms, which further connects them to QVC viewers – and in turn, their friends and followers.
Your organization’s salespeople may not want to be social media stars, and that’s OK. But your brand should have a personality and strive to develop a presence and deepen relationships wherever your customers are. This allows for greater loyalty and retention, and can turn followers into brand advocates.
Make Your Brand Accessible
QVC has modernized in a way that most content providers have not. Gone are the days of QVC being consumed exclusively on TV. Sure, you can still find them on over-the-air and traditional cable, but now there is an explosion of choice on how to consume their content.
There’s a QVC app for every device imaginable, from Apple and Android phones, tablets and smartwatches to Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire devices. QVC content is embedded within Hulu Live, YouTube TV, Frndly and more. You can even buy directly from QVC through Facebook Live. Unless you’re totally off the grid, like some mountain hideaway with no cable, satellite, Internet or cell service, you can access QVC content 24/7.
QVC’s content is not unique for each platform, but it’s different enough to appeal to a variety of consumers. The lesson for brands is to create avenues to meet your consumer where THEY want to consume your content, not where you think they should.
Flexible Payment Options
Price is one of the biggest considerations of almost any purchase. Sure, QVC uses the traditional retail tropes: retail pricing vs. sale pricing, calling out limited quantities to create urgency, special one-day pricing, etc. But they also offer wide range of payment options, like zero-percent financing, PayPal, speed checkout, QVC’s own credit card, or traditional debit/credit card transactions. They allow consumers to pick the payment option that is most comfortable for them, allowing an otherwise large purchase to seem attainable.
The payment space is exploding, and now more than ever it’s important to provide customers with a variety of options. Explore third-party payment platforms that allow for interest-free payments, and consider adding Apple Pay, PayPal, Venmo or Google Pay buttons to raise conversion rates. As competition heats up, keeping pace with emerging payment platforms is one way to differentiate yourself and acquire and retain more business.
Don’t Tell, Show
My first boss made me read the book “Triggers” by Joseph Sugarman. It’s probably one of the best-ever books on selling, and it’s still highly relevant. QVC borrows one of the key teachings from this book and turns it into an all-out assault on your wallet.
The heart of any QVC sales pitch – on air or online – is showing how the product looks, feels and works. Often you’ll see multiple product demonstrations; with clothing, for instance, you may see the product on models of different body types. Sometimes they’ll bring in a product expert, like the inventor or some other authority, to assist the host in demonstrating features and benefits.
I was watching QVC once when a Phillips Sonicare toothbrush was being sold. I had recently purchased that same item but the instructions in the box were lousy. I learned more about how to use that toothbrush from the QVC demo than the instructions that came with the product, or any YouTube video I was able to find.
QVC’s call-in reviews from product users, coupled with robust product ratings and Q&A on each product’s webpage, add authenticity to each product story. How can you create similar content that gives your customers confidence to pull the trigger on their purchase?
Creating a connected consumer experience across multiple platforms is the Holy Grail of modern business. QVC’s cross-platform experience may not be perfect, but it’s one of the top experiences in modern retail. While the broadcast is streaming across a litany of platforms, they ultimately converge in two locations: the phone and the website.
The phone is the traditional QVC experience: call the number, get a representative, give them your item number (which is very prominently displayed), credit card and shipping information, and your purchase is on its way. To encourage online purchasing, they constantly feature their URL on the broadcast along with a QR code that takes you straight to their website.
On other connected platforms, like their Apple TV app, QVC features an integrated shopping function or one-click buttons to get you to the destination. They even dedicate portions of the broadcast to showing people how to use the website. They treat the website as an extension of their business, fully integrated into the buying experience. And you should, too.
This excellent article on CIO.com gives some insight into how QVC uses data as both an input and output to their content creation. They unify real-time streaming data to inform content creation IN THE MOMENT. Identifying something about a host’s personality (like David Venable’s Happy Dance, one of my personal favorites) or sales pitch that causes consumer response to spike not only allows QVC to be more successful, it helps the salesperson be more successful, too.
Now, it’s worth remembering that QVC has a massive volume of data at its disposal. And they do direct-response sales, which is a different business model than a lot of organizations. But how might you use customer data to optimize content on your website or in your advertising? How might you combine technology with cultural insight, just as QVC does, to continually drive your business forward?
QVC has evolved a lot over the years, and I love how they’re not afraid to experiment. Combining proven sales techniques with modern approaches to customer experience, they continue to thrive while other aspects of retail – especially brick and mortar — are struggling.
You could learn a lot from following their example. And if you happen to tune in, don’t be surprised if you see me hosting one day – I’m coming for you, Venables!
Does your retail brand strategy check all the QVC boxes?