Despite the highly challenging environment in retail today, which has already caused the demise of a number of established retailers and threatens scores more, some retailers not named Amazon are managing to not only survive but thrive.
QVC is one of those, and it just might be one of the most surprising. The cable, satellite and broadcast television network-based home shopping service that began life in 1986 is trying to keep its business humming along at a time when millions of American consumers have cut their cords.
So how is QVC managing to deal with a retail and media environment that would seem to put it at a significant disadvantage? The answer is simple, at least on the surface: QVC has evolved and embraced new screens as they grew in popularity.
As AdWeek’s Sami Main recently detailed, QVC has transformed itself into a savvy digital player that is now “just as popular online as it is as a TV network.” In fact, ecommerce now accounts for more than 50% of QVC’s revenue in the U.S., and nearly half its $8.7 billion-plus revenue on a global basis.
The company, which is owned by Liberty Interactive, has a website that was launched only two years after Amazon’s, and offers iOS and Android mobile apps. It livestreams its shopping content on its website and mobile apps and also distributes its content via popular third party platforms like Roku, Apple TV and Facebook.
And it takes full advantage of those platforms. For example, QVC’s programming can be viewed through Facebook Live, and the company has set up dedicated Facebook Pages for its most popular hosts.
In short, QVC has made it easy for its customers to interact with it on virtually every screen. And interact with it they do. According to Peter Goodnough, QVC’s VP of consumer insights and analytics,
“People in the top 20 percent of our engaged customers are tuning in to our network six to nine times per day for five to 10 minutes per session. When you add that to how frequently people visit our digital properties, they’re spending two hours with us on any given day.”
Ahead of the curve
That’s an impressive stat, but it doesn’t come as a surprise to QVC. As the company sees it, the times have finally caught up to them – rather than the other way around.
As Alex Miller, QVC’s SVP of digital commerce told AdWeek, “The convergence of social networks, building relationships and shopping in one perfect screen means technology has finally caught up with us.”
Noting that QVC at its best is entertainment and not just shopping, Miller explained, “entertainment as shopping doesn’t always end in a transaction, but we create content and serve new platforms constantly to keep up with our consumer.”
In QVC’s case, that consumer is usually a more affluent female Gen Xer or Baby Boomer who, as AdWeek’s Main detailed, “[wants] to stay up to date with what’s going on in the world through their retail experience.”
Doing something Amazon couldn’t
QVC’s digital success is particularly interesting in light of the fact that online retail’s 800-pound gorilla, Amazon, hasn’t been able to crack the retail broadcasting code.
In March 2016, it launched Style Code Live, a fashion and beauty show that was broadcast live on the Amazon website. Amazon hired hosts with television experience, and Style Code Live regularly hosted popular celebrities and influencers.
Early on, some speculated that Style Code Live was Amazon’s attempt at building a QVC-like offering for the digital era, but apparently it didn’t gain enough traction to warrant further investment. Little more than a year after its launch, in May of this year, Amazon abruptly informed Style Code Live staff that it was pulling the plug on the show.
While the retail giant didn’t reveal why it shuttered the show, the fact that it gave up, at least for the time being, suggests that building a QVC-killer is not going to be easy, even for Amazon.
That’s good news for QVC, and while the company is unlikely to put a dent in Amazon’s overall rise, it appears to have a formula that has allowed it to avoid the kind of significant disruption from Amazon that has hit so many other retailers so hard.
And going forward, QVC will have a potentially larger opportunity to build on its interesting position in the retail market. Last week, its parent company, Liberty Interactive, announced that it is buying out QVC’s longtime rival, the Home Shopping Network, in a deal valued at $2.1 billion.
“The increased scale of this combination will allow us to more effectively compete, we think, in a changing and evolving retail and digital environment,” Gregory B. Maffei, Liberty Interactive’s CEO, told analysts on a conference call.
Mike George, QVC’s CEO, believes that the scale and synergies of the merged companies, as well as the ability to cross-market “to better engage existing and potential customers”, will leave QVC “well-positioned to help shape the next generation of retailing.”