QVC's digital journey: From the TV screen to all screens

PHILADELPHIA—QVC was among the earliest online retailers, launching its first shopping website in 1996. Nearly 20 years later, what began as a television shopping channel is now a multichannel, multi-platform powerhouse with $9 billion in annual sales and a growing multichannel operation.

"Digital has certainly transformed our business at QVC in ways I don't think we could have imagined just a few years ago," said Mike George, president and CEO. The company launched its first website 20 years ago and today has a presence across all platforms including the Apple Watch, where QVC was a launch partner.

But while QVC has successfully piloted different platforms and been early to try out new technology—it even experimented with SMS in the pre-smartphone years—today it is more focused on the customer than the device, at creating a cohesive experience that's less device-centric and more customer-centric, George told attendees during the morning keynote at the 2015 Digital Summit.

"We've been thinking a lot of disruption and the threat of disruption to our regular business model. But increasingly we've been thinking about disruptions as something that can be a powerful force if we can engage in our own purposeful disruption," he said. "In doing so, we can defy those skeptics who thought that TV shopping would be swamped by the growth of e-commerce."

Today, QVC is focused on winning not just in channels, but across channels and creating a cohesive customer experience by responding to what shoppers are asking for.

QVC shoppers want mobile to be the flagship experience, not a stripped-down version of the website for the small screen, according to George. It's a mobile-first philosophy born of necessity as customer traffic has shifted quickly from the desktop to mobile device. It is also using social media as a way to not just engage shoppers, but capture new customers, something the word of mouth nature of the medium is well suited to.

And last week, QVC completed the purchase of Zulily, an online retailer that reaches a much-desired and previously hard to capture group for QVC—millennials—with $1.3 billion in annual sales and more than half its orders coming from mobile devices.

"We think it's brand essence is similar to QVC. We're both about bringing something new and different, that you can't find anywhere else," he said. "And Zulily reaches the millennial customer and extends our reach into this group."
Next up, QVC is looking at on-demand shopping. "I don't see that being a thing in next five or 10 years," said George. "But we will do some experiments in that area in the next three years."

See all FierceRetail's 2015 coverage.

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