May 11, 2004, 12:00 AM

Move over PCs; here comes interactive shopping via TV remote

QVC shoppers already can order online in addition to by phone. In the fall, QVC expects to expand to offer shopping via TV remote to 1.3 million U.S. cable TV subscribers, a service it’s been providing in the U.K for the past four years.

QVC Inc. already gives its TV shoppers the option of ordering online, and in the fall it expects to add one more way to buy. In addition to the ordering mechanisms of the Internet and the telephone, some 1.3 million shoppers will be able to place an order for products featured on QVC TV by means of their remote control. The new shopping service is being co-developed by QVC and OpenTV, an interactive television company. The service will deliver orders to QVC via OpenTV software that resides in the TV set-top boxes of cable subscribers. The initial rollout will be with subscribers of cable TV provider Charter Communications. OpenTV is integrating the shopping application with QVC’s existing back-end structure.

The initial release will enable subscribers with enabled set-top boxes to purchase items as they are being featured on QVC. To start, the service will offer no opportunity to search or surf and buy via the remote beyond the product that is being featured on-screen at the moment. If the item is available for purchase via remote, an icon indicating this will appear on the screen; the icon will be removed when the product sells out, says Rob Cochran, CIO of QVC. "But depending on how it’s received, we’d begin to expand those services," he adds.

By pressing a button on the remote control when they see an item on offer that they wish to purchase, shoppers will open a small box on the screen where the details of the purchase take place. The screen provides prompts on what buttons to push on the remote to complete the purchase.

Cochran estimates that over the next three years, items purchased via TV remote will grow to about 15% of QVC’s sales from customers with enabled cable set-tops. QVC has already been offering the same service in the United Kingdom for four years, he adds.

Currently, in the U.S. QVC is testing the system with OpenTV among a small group of customers, with plans for full deployment across eligible set-top boxes by the fourth quarter. "We find it’s a convenient way for customers to order," Cochran adds. "It will become a matter of customer preference how they want to place the order."



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