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HSN pairs mobile content, commerce with strong results

July 26, 2011

The homepage for HSN's mobile Web site

Interactive multichannel retailer HSN Inc.‘s strategy of pairing content with commerce in mobile is helping drive its mobile sales, traffic and customer acquisitions. 

Mobile plays an important role for the TV shopping network as it looks to extend the reach of its programming. HSN’s mobile presence includes a mobile Web site and applications across several devices that serve up its TV programming and let users buy the products no matter where they are.

“HSN is focused on eliminating the boundaries of how and where people shop and recognizes that mobile is key,” said Jill Braff, executive vice president of digital commerce at HSN, St. Petersburg, FL.

“Mobile is our fastest growing revenue stream,” she said. “We’ve already surpassed last year’s revenue in mobile and we are very pleased with how our mobile platforms are taking off.

“We’ve seen our mobile site traffic as a big growth area, too.”

Mobile sales
At the core of the HSN’s mobile strategy is the idea of pairing rich content with commerce.

“HSN is going from a linear shopping platform to a 360-degree one that uses incredibly rich content and storytelling and wraps commerce around it – that’s what I’m focused on in mobile,” Ms. Braff said.

The two-fold strategy of content and commerce is evident in HSN’s iPad app, which was launched in December. The app lets users access 15 channels of content, including five customizable channels.

For example, users who love food can create their own channel that consists of their favorite food-related content from HSN. The network regularly pushes out updated content.

Below the content appears the items for sale that users can purchase from within the app. Items appear in synch with what is being used or discussed in the content.

“Someone watching Wolfgang Puck via the app will have commerce as part of the experience which makes it much more of an immersive experience than a linear e-commerce experience,” Ms. Braff said.

One of the ways HSN is looking to improve the mobile experience is by adding greater personalization to its apps and mobile Web site.

Sometime this month or in early August, HSN will add a “My Favorites” feature to mobile that will enable users to pick their favorite brands and products.

As a result, HSN will be able to personalize the experience by giving these brands and items more weight within the app or Web site.

“Users can also receive notifications and alerts related to the products,” Ms. Braff said. “This is making it easier for people to get what they are looking for, recognizing that time is of the essence when consumers are on a mobile device.”

To further enhance the shopping experience, HSN recently introduced a shopping cart that is shared across devices.

The new feature  enables a user to add an item to the shopping cart via their  mobile device and then complete the transaction via a desktop computer, tablet or other device.

Consumer engagement
HSN’s findings from its initial efforts in mobile include that customers like to use mobile in different ways.

“In habits, customers use mobile in two ways – as a second screen that lets them check-out while watching HSN at home or when she’s away from the TV and wants to watch our programming and shop,” Ms. Braff said.

Other learnings from mobile include that users are frequently looking for special deals and what’s on sale via mobile.

With this in mind, HSN created a storefront just for the mobile Web site and applications that showcases daily deals and what’s on sale.

HSN is also finding that its mobile audience is beginning to evolve now that it has been in the space for a little while.

Initially, HSN’s mobile users consisted mostly of core customers who were migrating to mobile shopping from TV shopping. The benefit of this is that multichannel customers spend more than single channel customers, per Ms. Braff.

“More recently, we are finding that many new customers are finding us on mobile – new is growing in mobile,” Ms. Braff said.

Going forward, the shopping network will look to bring HSN Arcade to mobile and tablets in the future. HSN Arcade was launched June 1 and combines shopping, casual gaming and sharing via Facebook.

The company is also taking a close look at mobile advertising and marketing and will release news in this area later this year.

“Our overarching strategy for mobile across devices is to make it a fully optimized experience,” Ms. Braff said.

“We want to allow users to connect with us whenever and wherever they want,” she said.

“It is important to have full distribution across platforms and then work on customizing the experience based on the device itself.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor at Mobile Commerce Daily

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