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NRF 2018: How QVC is using tech to tackle retail’s three greatest challenges

Mary Campbell is the chief interaction experience officer at QVC. She described how the QVC group believe in a different way to shop “based on the power of discovery, personal experience and powered by story-telling”.

QVC, which strives to combine the best of retail, media and social, needs to create an engaging shopping experience and make real, live connections with its customers in order to reach its full potential. “Our goal is to constantly create meaningful experiences that are relevant on all platforms,” she said.

The speakers agreed the three main challenges facing the future of its business are complexity; need for speed; and challenges with innovation. In order to conquer each of the three challenges, it’s absolutely essential that the QVC business team works closely with the technology team as a single unit.

Complexity

Campbell explained how increased complexity gives QVC less control over how its customer engages with its brand. “We faced challenges with listening to what our customers say and relying on data to inform our actions. Legacy systems were also a problem.”

Todd Sprinkle is the chief digital officer at QVC. “In 2008 there were three touchpoints that customers could use to contact us. Today, our rich deep experiences give the customer multiple platforms on which to contact us.

“Complexity is a challenge, but it also creates opportunity,” he said, explaining how QVC brought its live show into its mobile app. “Part of the challenge is that the video quality had to load quickly and be pristine. We had to consider the user experience, so we engineered it so the live video would play as soon as the user opened the app, but without audio.”

The need for speed

Product trends are moving faster than ever, and it’s essential for our brand to keep ahead of the trends and evolve with our customer expectations, explained Campbell.

“To do this, we made two large investments. The first is a digital command center called DART, which stands for Digital Analytics Response Technology. DART is an intelligence platform that analyses data, including competitor intelligence, user performance, social media trend tracking and customer feedback.” With the data produced, QVC is able to react, shift and pivot in real-time, adjusting its marketing to reflect the trends detected by DART.

The second investment was the launch of Beauty IQ, the world’s first live multi-platform network dedicated to beauty. “We identified a gap in the market and the business and technology teams worked together to launch 90 days later.” The concept was born out of a business decision, but new technology was built on top of legacy systems. “DART helps us form our long-term strategy based on what our customers are doing or saying.”

Innovation

“Innovation needs to be meaningful for the customer,” said Campbell. “Don’t innovate for innovation’s sake. We prioritise what to invest in as a team.”

In the video space, “We constantly challenge ourselves,” said Sprinkle. “It’s important that we raise the bar on ourselves.” QVC was early to partner with Facebook Live on Beauty IQ which Campbell said “puts them in an enviable position…We took something we were already really good at and translated it onto a new platform.”

Sprinkle admitted not every innovation has been a victory. “We have invested in things that didn’t scale or pay off.”

The key to success, he concluded, is “a combination of ruthless prioritization coupled with constant investment in new platforms and technology which yield a balanced portfolio of work.”

These learnings will prove useful in the future, which Campbell predicts will be “even more complex, will move even faster and will be an environment in which we will have to take more calculated risks.”