October 11, 2011, 12:47 PM

Mobile Commerce Forum Report: For HSN, the mobile future is here

HSN knows that web behavior is changing to become more mobile.

Lead Photo

Edward Deutscher

HSN Inc. has it all: a mobile commerce site, smartphone apps, an iPad app, text messaging and 2-D bar codes. It's executed an aggressive mobile strategy because it saw the writing on the wall that smartphones and tablets are exploding and web behavior is changing—to become more mobile.

"We have widely distributed mobile experiences," said Mobile Commerce Forum keynote speaker Edward Deutscher, operating vice president of technology for HSN.com, advanced services and mobile. "Customers are using mobile on their couch with their handsets or tablets while watching live TV,” he told attendees today in Houston. “Even though they may be watching the current item on TV they can get more information on mobile than on the TV, like customer reviews or alternative images."

Deutscher stressed personalization as a key to success in mobile commerce. HSN recently debuted My Favorites, for example. The TV and online retailer has placed tiny red hearts on mobile pages. A customer taps the heart and the mobile systems register the product tapped as a favorite. The merchant aggregates all favorites on a special landing page, where customers can later browse the favorite products or browse through the products of a favorite brand.

Customers can also use their favorites to create a custom video channel, where mobile videos are collected in a TV channel-like format so shoppers can have a viewing experience all their own.

"The goal is to leverage customer preferences to personalize experiences to ease access to products," Deutscher said.

5% of mobile shoppers tag favorites, and they average five brands per customer, Deutscher said. He added that HSN has seen sales increase as a result of introducing the favorites feature, though he did not reveal exact figures.

HSN also is personalizing the home page that returning customers see on the site and in the apps. If a customer has placed an item in her shopping cart and the price has dropped, HSN alerts her to the price decrease in a small box on the home screen. It also showcases order status on the home page, as that is one of the top reasons HSN customers use mobile, Deutscher said.

"How do we deliver the shopping experience and entertainment? Through video and personalization," he said. "People want to feel like they are controlling the experience. Why not give them an opportunity to come back and feel like they are controlling it? That will drive repeat behavior."

Deutscher described some of the other mobile innovations of HSN, which has been in business for 34 years. The retailer enables app users to watch live streaming video of the HSN television channel on their mobile devices, for example. And it has begun displaying 2-D bar codes on television screens, enabling smartphone users who scan those codes to link directly to mobile web content and product pages.

In the end, mobile commerce is all about engaging customers where they are using the web today, and making sure a merchant gets its brand messages across in the growing mobile channel, Deutscher said.

"Place your brands in consumers' hands," he said. "There are so many apps out there, so how do you stand out and make customers come back? It's giving customers the 'wow factor,' getting them engaged and immersed in the overall brand."

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