HSN Betting Its Future On The Power Of Mobile

The retailer once known as The Home Shopping Network (and now known simply as HSN) (Nasdaq: HSNI) has had a rough ride in recent years, trying to battle QVC. HSN CEO Mindy Grossman sees mobile as her company's savior.

A Wall Street Journal profile of the retail CEO shows her betting much of the company's future on a view of its shoppers—and how they are going to be interacting with mobile. "Catering to HSN's average customer—a woman age 25 to 54 with an average yearly income of $69,000—she repositioned the retailer as a place where busy women like her could shop on their mobile phones and tablets, on their way to work or during their kids' soccer practice. She pushed to spread shopping content from static shows on televisions, to interactive offerings available on lots of small screens. More than half of all new customers come to HSN through their mobile phones."

Grossman's point about how her shoppers and prospects will integrate mobile into their lives, assuming retailers keep that mobile content relevant, is perfect. (Nitpick: Not so sure I would have said "women like her" when referring to "a woman age 25 to 54 with an average yearly income of $69,000." The 55-year-old Grossman is just a tad higher than the top end of that age range, but the bigger difference is income. The CEO pulled in a $1.2 million salary last year, which is a small part of $5.6 million in total compensation that year. Granted, that's a lot less than the $12.2 million in total compensation she earned back in 2010, but it's still a far cry from her understanding what living on $69K means.)

How is HSN using mobile? Cooking shows have always been popular TV features, but mobile (especially tablets) give it new relevance. Slow down the pace and it allows shoppers to literally cook dinner right alongside the host, potentially with a constant display of ingredients in the corner. HSN also allows shoppers to chat online with HSN hosts (or, more specifically, their staffs). Have a question about that recipe? Submit the question and get an immediate reply.

Games are nothing new, but playing games on HSN mobile offers the lure of winning free HSN merchandise. This gives gamers a good reason to play their games on HSN mobile.

Some 10 percent of HSN's current revenue comes from mobile purchases, but like almost all retailers, HSN releases little data about—and likely possesses little data about—how much of the site and TV's direct revenue is strongly influenced by mobile activity. HSN's mobile shoppers also tend to be slightly younger: an average of 48 years old, compared with 52 years old for the company's Web shoppers and 58 years old for customers who place phone orders. They also make a few more dollars: About 30 percent of mobile shoppers make more than $100,000 a year, compared with 27 percent of Web shoppers and 23 percent of phone customers. (To be fair, there's not a lot of meaningful difference between 27 percent and 30 percent, but it's likely a slight increase.)

For more:
- See Wall Street Journal story

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