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HSN Breaks Channel Barriers

BY Dan Berthiaume

HSN may have been a pioneer in using TV as a shopping channel, but the retailer is using emerging technology to become a much broader enterprise. As HSN CEO Mindy Grossman detailed during a keynote session at last week’s Internet Retailer conference in Chicago, this is not your mother’s HSN. Not by a long shot.

“We’re engaging consumers away from TV,” said Grossman. “There is a dramatic transformation of the consumer. They are being reshaped by technology, social networks and mobility.”

In response, Grossman said HSN no longer uses the word “channel,” but instead breaks down internal silos to offer consumers a boundary-less experience.

Delivering Customer Experience Across all Screens
“HSN offers a 360-degree network of experiences,” said Grossman. “We bring personalities, brands and products to life and engage the audience in a significant way. The differentiator is experience.”

A crucial part of providing this full experience to consumers is to put them in the center of what Grossman termed a “four-screen world” consisting of TV shopping, digital, mobile and TV entertainment media.

“We bring the story to life,” said Grossman. “We take content and real-time customer interaction and chat to provide the right content at the right moment.”

Grossman said HSN currently measures sales by the minutes on TV and wants to perform the same measurements for its digital sales in order to seamless offer curated, expanded assortments. (HSN’s overall customer base is 84% female and approaches 100% female in some categories.)

A Moveable Shopping Feast
Despite assumptions by some observers that the typical HSN shopper is an older, working class Caucasian who likes to shop via TV, Grossman said the average annual income of HSN customers is $69,000 and they are ethnically diverse, use all channels and are getting younger. For these reasons, HSN is taking a particular focus on mobile sales.

“We develop mobile first,” said Grossman. “More than 10% of our business is currently mobile. We recorded $167 million of mobile sales during 2012 and saw a 78% increase in mobile sales during the first quarter of this year. Mobile consumers are the youngest, most affluent and most diverse consumers.”

That’s Entertainment
Grossman said modern retailers are now longer no just competing with each other but with other entertainment options consumers have, such as video games, movies and TV shows. To stay competitive in this new entertainment-centric environment, HSN attempts to blend the lines between entertainment and retail.

“Events increase engagement,” said Grossman. “We will run a 24-hour food event or jewelry event. It creates an emotional trigger inside the consumer’s head. Social sales significantly increase during events, as do digital traffic and engagement.”

For example, HSN sells CDs while music artists such as Rod Stewart perform live from HSN studios. A new feature called HSN Lounge offers special live streaming of these musical events.

“Rod Stewart took live photos in the HSN Lounge and uploaded them to Instagram and Facebook,” said Grossman. “He also performed an extra song that was only available on Facebook and digitally. We sold 30,000 CDs in one hour.”

Grossman said HSN also uses Pinterest to curate products that tie into films and runs interactive “mega events” that sell promotional and themed goods in conjunction with the release of a new movie that include live appearances by Hollywood stars.

Games are Serious Business
HSN’s efforts to provide a complete entertainment experience also extend to games.
“Gamification is not just playing games,” cautioned Grossman. “Women age 30-45 are the largest users of casual games. Game play and shopping are actually very similar. There is the thrill of the hunt, achievement and reward sharing.”

HSN offers the HSN Arcade, which Grossman said is the first retail gaming platform. Consumers can play casual games while they watch live TV and engage with other omni-channel content.

HSN Arcade also lets customers take quizzes that help reveal their personal style preferences and see how their votes compare to the votes of other customers. In addition to providing engagement and reward, the quizzes provide HSN with a wealth of data they can use to refine and personalize assortments and promotions.

“HSN Arcade has had 128 million plays,” said Grossman. “Users visit the site twice as often and spend twice as much money. There are 700,000 regular users.”

HSN is not standing still with these transformational efforts. Grossman concluded her presentation by saying the retailer is trying to build an enterprise view of the customer where it can use analytics to anticipate exactly what a customer will want. HSN has been undergoing a systems transformation with IBM for the past three years and will launch the first phase of its enterprise view program this summer.

“Be as personal as you can,” advised Grossman. “Create passionate evangelists.”


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Retailers steel themselves for Superman reboot

BY CSA STAFF

Retailers are poised to benefit from the June 14 release of The Man of Steel and the extensive licensing activity connected to the latest Superman reboot. Warner Bros. Consumer Products has launched a broad, multi-category licensing program with a variety of global licensees to support the highly anticipated film.

Global toy licensee Mattel has unveiled a toy line which includes action figures, vehicles, play sets and collectible figures, highlighted by the fan-favorite and much-anticipated Movie Masters line, which features action figures that are supposed to bear a remarkable likeness to the film’s characters. Mattel will also introduce Man of Steel QuickShots, which the company states incorporates elements of flight and strength into the toy.

Global licensees such as Lego, with construction sets inspired by scenes from the film, and Rubie’s Costume Co., with a new line of Man of Steel-inspired costumes and accessories for both kid and adult fans, are also supporting the film.

“With a superhero as iconic and beloved as Superman, it is no surprise that fans worldwide are excited for Zack Snyder’s new vision of this classic story,” said Brad Globe, president, Warner Bros. Consumer Products. “We are thrilled to be a part of the phenomenon as we work closely with our licensees to offer fans a variety of products that bring Man of Steel to the world beyond the big screen.”

Additional toys, games and collectibles licensees benefiting from the film’s release include Thinkway Toys, with a full role-play line and interactive figures; Jakks Pacific, with a 31-inch collectible Superman figure and Cardinal Industries, with games and puzzles.

Sideshow Collectibles are offering statues, the Noble Collection are offering prop replicas, Neca are offering an 18-inch articulated figure; Funko are offering stylized plush and vinyl figures and Kotobukiya and SquareEnix are offering "high-end creations."

The roster of licensees includes a number of categories, ranging from apparel and accessories, to stationery and publishing. Perennial partner Bioworld is offering a line of Man of Steel-inspired apparel and accessories, utilizing a number of graphics and icons; high-end T-shirt label Kinetix is offering S-Shield T-shirts; New Era Cap Company is offering a range of hats; and Under Armour is offering high-end sportswear.

Man of Steel, a production of Warner Bros, is directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Charles Roven, Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Deborah Snyder. The film opens June 14.

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Omni-Channel: Offering a Seamless Shopping Experience to Customers

BY CSA STAFF

By Niclas Qvist, Pricer

Since the rise of online shopping, it seems that everyone in the world of retail has been debating the future of traditional stores. Not only do offline stores have to weather a particularly long and brutal recession, but they also have to compete with an ever-expanding online sector. In fact, recent estimates suggest that while bricks-and-mortar retailers are expected to grow 1% to 2% a year, online retail is growing at a rate of 10% annually. To counter this ‘threat’, many main street shops have set up online stores – often with great success.

However, it is important to remember that 90% of retail sells through traditional stores. There will always be a place for physical stores, as consumers will always want to be able to touch, feel and see a product for themselves before buying. While operating a ‘multi-channel’ environment in the form of having both a traditional and an online store certainly gives consumers more choice, retailers are increasingly asking themselves: “What is it that drives consumers to online stores, and how can we incorporate these features into our offline stores to create one, seamless customer experience?”

Understanding the benefits afforded to consumers who shop online is vital. In the past, shopping was a private experience – you did it by yourself. Now, thanks to the internet, it has become far more social. Before purchasing anything, customers may access at least one review website, and look at other consumer feedback and advice. They share their shopping experience via social media such as Facebook, upload photos of their purchases to Instagram and ask their friends for input. What’s more, online stores are incredibly transparent and display a lot of information on each product – what it is made from, where it is made, and its availability. We are living in the information age – and shopping is no exception.

By introducing easy access to information into their stores, main street retailers can merge the best of both worlds. By combining the tangible ‘see and touch’ aspect that you can only get in an offline store with the transparency of online shopping, retailers will be at a huge advantage. Such an integrated shopping experience allows consumers to shop the way they want, and as such offline retailers can greatly boost conversion rates – going that extra mile to ensure that consumers who enter always leave with a product, convinced they have made the right decision.

So, how can these two worlds merge together? The answer is simple – implement the latest retail technology. New retail technology offers stores the opportunity to transcend multi-channel retailing and implement an omni-channel environment, whereby they can connect the internet, mobile, and offline channels into one truly seamless customer experience.

Today, most consumers carry smartphones with them at all times, and these can allow offline stores to interact with consumers on a new level. For example, with electronic shelf labels (ESLs), not only can a retailer place a vast amount of product information on one label, but they can also include bar codes, quick response (QR) codes, or near field communication (NFC), which can be used to link consumers to positive reviews online, discounts and promotional codes – anything.

It is also now possible for retailers to bring the ‘social’ aspect of online shopping to physical stores. Consumers can ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on products in real-time, just as they would do online, simply by scanning a capable ESL with their smartphone. The ESL will then immediately update the number of ‘likes’ a product has received and retailers can choose to also display any glowing product reviews.

Shopping online also offers consumers a more ‘personalized’ service by recommending products based on past purchases and viewed items – and the latest retail technology can offer a similar intuitive, ‘smart’ service. With a QR code on an electronic label or a NFC-enabled label, a store can link the customer who scans the code or taps the ESL with his mobile to a discount on another, similar product.

Allowing customers to access information immediately through the latest retail technology can be used by main street stores to create a truly ‘omni-channel’ environment. Most people can relate to going to a shop, finally finding something they want, and then having to wait thirty minutes only to be informed it is out of stock. This means an unhappy customer and a retailer who has missed an opportunity to put money in the register. In an omni-channel environment, whichever channel customers use, the store will be viewed as a single, transparent system – as opposed to multiple channels with separate inventory and processing systems.

With ESLs, you can not only tell the customer that this product is out of stock, but more importantly, you can tell them when it will next be available in store or give directions to another branch which has availability. Other options include displaying a QR code or including a NFC which will take them to the online store to order it or suggest a similar product as an alternative.

Future shopping will be about bringing the best of mobile, e-commerce, and in-store shopping experiences in a one and only similar experience. This is the true value of today’s retail technology. It creates a seamless, simple experience for the consumer, and ensures that, in that crucial moment when they are considering buying, they are convinced, and don’t walk out of the store empty-handed.

Niclas Qvist is head of marketing and partner management at Pricer, a provider of electronic shelf labels.


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T.Platt says:
Jun-20-2013 11:44 am

shoppers get seamless shopping experience, buying their way, when, where and what they want, via #CEM http://Amex.co/13rIN5K

T.Platt says:
Jun-14-2013 11:24 am

Retailers create + deliver seamless omnichannel experience so consumers buy when, where, and what they want http://Amex.co/13rIN5K

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