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QVC Execs On Mobile, the New Shopping Mall and Fidget Spinners

June 10, 2017, 5:00 PM UTC


QVC was a pioneer in the 1980s for bringing shopping to living rooms across the U.S. Since then, it’s gone global by adding channels in Japan, Germany, U.K., Italy, France, and China.

These days, the big question is whether QVC can adapt to the new world of online video, mobile shopping, and e-commerce. In 2015, QVC’s parent company, Liberty Interactive, bought online retailer for women’s and kid’s fashion Zulily for $2.4 billion, hoping to attract millennial moms.

The efforts appear to be making some headway. Of QVC’s $8.7 billion revenue in 2016, e-commerce represented 48%, or $4 billion, of the overall.

Fortune spoke to QVC’s senior vice president of digital commerce, Alex Miller, and Peter Goodnough, the company’s vice president of consumer insights and analytics, about how the company is tackling mobile commerce and trying to appeal to younger shoppers.

(This interview was edited for length and clarity)

Fortune: How is QVC looking at the e-commerce and mobile commerce opportunity right now?

Miller: We’re excited about where things are going in terms of e-commerce. We are more of a media company that a traditional commerce company. Our customers come to us to be entertained. So the trends around mobile play to our strengths because people are open to engaging with our content and we’re in a good position to monetize that behavior.

How have you made the transition from a media company to a technology company?

Miller: We’ve been in digital and e-commerce for almost 21 years and mobile for almost a decade. Some of the problems that brick and mortar retailers have had to face we have not had to tackle. We’ve always been direct to consumer, and had a good relationship with our customers. We always had a single unified pricing model.

Goodnough: What we’ve had to do is learn to reposition our existing video and media assets to drive transactions and engagement on all platforms. For example, we have displayed 20 second advertisements on our TV programming for online only sales, which has brought upwards of $150,000 in sales of one product.

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We are also thinking about how we can become the new virtual mall in e-commerce. We are really a virtual bazaar where consumers are looking at many different products. QVC is an agile company that can react to placing and merchandising. For example, we saw that of Google trends that searches for new toy fidget spinners are increasing. So we decided to sell an assorted variety of fidget spinners, and we’ve had multiple times where our inventory of the product has sold out.

How are you using real-time data and trends to make selling decisions?

Goodnough: We have a software called DART, which stands for data analytics response tech. It’s a real-time monitoring system for every consumer behavior that’s happening on the web, including searches on Google and other public data. The more data that flows into our system, we can change what we are selling both in broadcast and online.

So we’re looking at weather on a geographic basis to help spike sales of weather related products. Or we recently saw an increase of people searching for Himalayan Salt Lamps, and we stocked these products and had multiple events where the items sold out.

How are you trying to appeal to the millennial generation?

Goodnough: Baby boomers are the most powerful consumer force right now in terms of disposable income. We see that generation as underserved and it is the most economically well off. But we bought Zulily to appeal to a millennial shopper and it was a purposeful move to expand out our demographic.

Tell us more about how you are tackling mobile commerce?

Miller: We have a big mobile app business. We produce the most live content of any network in the U.S. So we’re really leaning in to that on mobile. We just launched new version of iOS and Android apps that features live video, both from our existing TV channels and original content. We offer buy buttons within the video which let shoppers buy items on our retail site. We also have apps for the Roku and Apple TV.

We’re constantly thinking about how and where can we make video and shopping a central experience.