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HSN’s Retail Evolution

Bill Brand, chief marketing and business development officer, HSNi

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To describe the HSN of today as a TV shopping channel is both woefully dated and reductive. The company, a division of HSNi, has evolved into a multichannel leader, where digital commerce accounts for 36.8% of its $2.2 billion in annual sales.

HSN’s 24/7 shopping format, which bowed in 1981, now seems positively prescient amid the rise of e-commerce.

Bill Brand, chief marketing and business development officer of HSNi, spoke with Chain Store Age contributing writer Barbara Thau about HSN’s rebranding efforts — designed to better reflect its evolution into an interactive entertainment and lifestyle retailer — and how mobile shopping and exclusive brand partnerships will drive further growth.

Who is HSN’s target shopper today, and has she changed in recent years? 

Our customer continues to be 84% female, with an average age of 55 and median income of $78,000. Additionally, 26% of our customers have an income of more than $100,000.

Our mobile customers are younger and more affluent; the average age is 48. Mobile is our fastest-growing channel and represents more than 10% of HSN’s business.

How would you define HSN’s current niche?

We are a 36-year-old brand that has evolved into a leading interactive entertainment and lifestyle retailer that is more relevant today than ever in our history. We incorporate entertainment, inspiration, personalities and industry experts to provide an entirely unique shopping experience at HSN. This sets us apart from other retail destinations.

We have become an entertainment destination for our customer. She is not just coming to us to shop — she is discovering and engaging with blockbuster movies and top music acts, playing games and socializing with her friends at HSN. We offer a level of engagement that is beyond other shopping channels.

Earlier this year, we rolled out a complete refresh of the HSN brand, focusing on everything from our website and digital channels to our packaging, direct-marketing materials and even our external advertising. We wanted the way we presented ourselves to our customers to truly reflect the shopping environment we have created — fun, social, entertaining, etc. — and we wanted that tone to be there through every step of the customer cycle: from discovery to purchase to receipt.

Our tagline says it all: ‘It’s fun here.’ It grabs consumers’ attention, tells a story and unites our current customers with our prospects.

How is HSN addressing the growing trend of product-driven philanthropy?

We started the HSN Cares philanthropic program several years ago to empower women and support families in need at a local, national and global level. It gives our organization a soul and is part of our DNA here at HSN.

Our customers have responded positively to this program. They feel they are partnering with us to be part of a larger cause.

Two of the largest organizations that we support are U.S. Fund for UNICEF and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This year, for the first time, HSN, along with two of our sister brands Chasing Fireflies and Grandin Road, came together to support the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign. Special Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF stores were established at HSN.com, GrandinRoad.com and Chasing-Fireflies.com. We donated a minimum of 10% of the purchase price for each Halloween item sold during Sept. 1 through Oct. 31.

Digital accounts for 36.8% of HSN’s business today. What’s driving the growth?

Some of the key drivers of digital growth are mobile and the HSN Arcade, which launched in 2011 and marries entertainment with casual games, and has hit new levels of customer engagement. We have reached more than 150 million game plays with more than 760,000 arcade members. 

We also use the Arcade to promote cross-marketing initiatives. As part of our Toyota partnership, for example, we had 8 million impressions of Toyota-related promotional material on Arcade.

What about mobile? How will HSN further maximize its potential in 2014?

Mobile has been a key part of our overall business since we launched our first iPhone app in 2009. It deepens our customer relationships and enables us to tell the story behind the product.

What’s driving this growth is our ‘Favorites’ tool that connects her with what she loves and makes it extremely easy for her to shop with us. For example, when she has ‘Favorites,’ we send her push notifications from within our apps that one of her favorite brands is on sale or a ‘Today’s special.’ The alerts are personalized to her preferences. 

In 2014, some specific mobile tactics include offering mobile-only exclusives for our customers across smartphones and tablets, continuing to optimize our apps and driving awareness of HSN through social media channels.

What are HSN’s key initiatives this holiday season?

We are launching the More the Merrier holiday campaign, our first HSNi holiday event, where we’ve brought together our family of eight leading lifestyle brands to showcase a curated assortment of holiday items.

We believe that the potential for growth through cross-brand marketing is enormous — and this is an important part of our strategic vision for the company.

For example, HSNi’s brands’ Ballard Designs, Frontgate, Grandin Road, Chasing Fireflies, Garnet Hill, Improvements, HSN and TravelSmith are collaborating to create the ultimate More the Merrier holiday Pinterest board, with products pinned from each of the brands. Holiday shoppers can follow HSNi’s official board to learn about the season’s top giftable items, purchase directly from the different brands and get the scoop from experts on how these items can complete their shopping lists.

HSN shopping events tied to entertainment launches are now a hallmark of your strategy. How is this evolving?

Our entertainment integration strategy has been very successful for HSN and has become a powerful marketing vehicle for the film industry.

Earlier this year, we created a specialized online boutique called Dallas inspired by the [return of the] show. The boutique was a fashion destination that offered curated looks hand-selected by the show’s costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin. This partnership created additional brand awareness for our fashion and jewelry businesses and drove customers to HSN from the millions of engaged ‘Dallas’ fans.

We will continue to look for partners in the movie, TV and the music industry that are the right fit for our brand.

© 2014