QVC is Using Technology to Overcome Business Challenges
As QVC continues to grow — its acquisition of rival HSN was completed last month — the challenges facing the business grow accordingly. To overcome those challenges, the retailer is increasingly turning to technology and a partnership formed by the company’s information technology team and the rest of the business.
In a session yesterday at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City, Mary Campbell, chief interactive experience officer, and Todd Sprinkle, chief information officer, both of QVC, outlined how the company is making technology core to its future. Specifically, the pair detailed three key challenges QVC (and a lot of other retailers, for that matter) is facing: complexity; need for speed; and innovation.
Campbell noted the variety of obstacles that QVC faces as it seeks to use content and experiences to engage consumers and give them inspiration to shop. They include the following:
- discovery in a fragmented space (QVC has eight brands represented across multiple platforms, including TV, web, mobile, social);
- less control of where and how the customer accesses your brand;
- listening to what the customer says vs. relying on data to inform action; and
- legacy technology systems.
Further complicating matters is that today’s consumers have greater expectations of retailers, said Campbell. Our job is to give them rich, deep experiences across a variety of networks.
An example of such a rich, deep experience is QVC’s updated mobile app. The app now live streams the retailer's television broadcast, and features quick links to that day's specials, products that were recently shown on air, and other relevant content.
The goal is to make it easier to shop than ever before, Sprinkle said.
Need for Speed
Everything moves fast in retail today, according to Campbell, and thus QVC is trying to make its organization as nimble as possible to meet customers’ expectations. External factors impacting this demand for speed include changes in the business climate, challenge to stay ahead of market trends, evolving customer expectations, and technology and platform changes.
To account for this new business reality, QVC has created what it calls DART, a digital command center that provides it with real-time feedback. With the right data, including current sales transactions and inventory counts, QVC is able to make decisions in real time while ensuring the best ROI for the company.
“There's a hyper-focus on the minimal amount of info that executives need to make better decisions,” Sprinkle said, citing examples such as intraday merchandising and content changes.
A second example of QVC's agility is Beauty iQ, the world's first live, multiplatform network dedicated to beauty, one of retail's fastest-growing verticals. QVC launched the network in just 90 days in 2016. Beauty iQ is a shoppable community, with content delivered in multiple channels, including the Beauty iQ network, BeautyiQ.com, QVC.com, QVC's mobile app, and via social channels including Facebook and Instagram.
QVC reacted quickly to a trend in the marketplace — the growth of beauty product sales — with a platform that has enabled it to capitalize on the opportunity.
The final challenge Campbell and Sprinkle addressed was innovation. With the abundance of new technologies and solutions in the market, the challenge for QVC is to prioritize which can truly add value to its business. You don't innovate for innovation's sake, said Campbell.
QVC takes the following steps before testing and ultimately investing in a new technology solution:
- find a common definition — purpose and value;
- prioritize to be able to explore and invest;
- innovate across the entire enterprise; and
- compete with your own business.
There's a ruthless prioritization of what to invest in, Campbell said about QVC's technology road map.
A new platform that QVC has invested heavily in is Facebook Live.
"Video commerce is clearly our strength, but we continue to raise the bar here, specifically with Facebook Live,” noted Sprinkle. “We took something that we were already really good at — video commerce — and translated it to a new platform.”
QVC now produces more live content than any other business in the world, including 150-plus hours of live content across 35 Facebook pages each week.
"We see platforms as enablers for growth,” Campbell said. “The future will be more complex, we’ll have to move faster, and take calculated risks.”
Related story: The QVC and HSN Merger: Not Your Usual Retail Story