May 27, 2010, 3:02 PM

Changing Channels

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"It really was about speed and service as you think about where the mobile devices were before smartphones," Simmons says of the m-commerce site's minimalist site design and fast checkout. "There needed to be flexibility, speed and ease of use—quickly buy today's special value or an item on air, that is where mobile started. But as mobile devices became more robust and the adoption of apps through smartphones grew, we enabled more robust features through an app, like searching and product demonstrations."

Where it's at
And in QVC's mobile channel, and in mobile in general, that is where the action is today—apps.

When QVC debuted its iPhone app six months ago, it greatly increased functionality over its m-commerce site. The site is streamlined by design so it can be accessed by as many types of phones as possible.

The iPhone app, in contrast, is so feature-heavy it mimics the functionality of the e-commerce site. It opens with Today's Special Value, Item On Air and Items Recently On Air, all with photos and product descriptions. A Featured button takes shoppers to a page of special products with larger images and more information, with arrows that when touched display product pages with even larger images and such features as color swatches.

The Search button pulls up the app search engine, enabling customers to hunt through QVC's catalog of products. And E-mail An Item lets shoppers share product information with friends and family. Like the m-commerce site, the app features Speed Buy functionality.

"The app complements our e-commerce site by providing our customers with the same brand experience," Simmons says.

A new team
QVC's mobile arsenal came from the retailer's new media team. It's a cross-functional group that was charged with everything from research and evaluation to the design and implementation of the company's mobile strategy.

"We really have an integrated team supporting the platforms of our on-air and online business. So we had that staffing model built in," Simmons explains. "We use the new media team to look at extensions of our existing platforms, listening to customers to find out what they want to see next and looking on the horizon. Today QVC's digital commerce team is responsible for driving the company's mobile business, including creative, usability, and tracking and implementation of customer feedback."

All of the employee teams within QVC listen very closely to the customer, who in QVC's case is vociferous, she adds.

"They're very good at giving us great information," Simmons says. "And because we're giving a live service that's changing, she can give us a variety of feedback on what she likes and doesn't like, and that allows us to constantly evolve the experience and the platforms."

For example, QVC customers requested that they be able to watch QVC's live broadcast on their smartphones. "With the enhanced app for iPhone, as well as the launch of our app for Android, this request will be made available," Simmons says.

Much of the feedback is collected through a combination of QVC's research department and the e-commerce site. "Mobile feedback comes from our community postings and customer groups we bring in," Simmons says.

In addition to showing enthusiasm for live TV on the mobile phone, customers made something else very clear. "Our customers really love ratings and reviews," Simmons says. And they wanted the feature in the mobile channel. So QVC has added customer ratings and reviews to the enhanced iPhone app and will make them available on the upcoming Android and BlackBerry apps.

And the customers have been responding. QVC is reaping increasing sales from its m-commerce site, text message program and mobile app, and response in the online forums has been positive.

"Mobile commerce is core because our customer is such a powerful user of mobile technology," Simmons says. This has been shown by the number of shoppers accessing its site on mobile devices and by the adoption of mobile commerce by customers since it launched its mobile channel two years ago. The merchant declines to give specific numbers.

"It's a natural extension from on-air to online to mobile. And it's a powerful extension," Simmons says. "There is such strong adoption; it's well on its way."

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