HSN gives mobile gifts for the holidays

The retailer adds mobile-only Black Friday sale previews and iPad games.

Amy Dusto

TV, web and mobile retailer HSN Inc. is prepared for its fastest-growing sales channel—mobile—to take even more of a central role this holiday season, says chief marketing and business development officer Bill Brand.

HSN will present previews of Black Friday deals to smartphone shoppers two days before the big shopping day this year, as well as send  mobile notifications about Black Friday pre-sales and day-of sales. It has also added to its iPad app seven mobile games shoppers can play while also accessing shopping-related content from the retailer, Brand says. For instance, a shopper can play the card game Solitaire while watching the latest HSN broadcast, he says. That’s on top of other contests and sweepstakes the retailer already offers exclusively on its mobile site and apps, including one to win a Toyota vehicle, he says. HSN also recently enabled mobile shoppers to check out using eBay Inc.’s PayPal payment service.

The moves are all part of the retailer’s “mobile-first” approach to building new digital capabilities, Brand says. While its main goal is to create ways for consumers to shop and engage with HSN on any platform, designing for smartphones first is usually more efficient than designing for a larger screen size and trying to scale down and optimize for mobile, he says.

For example, HSN in September began optimizing all e-mails in the vertical direction to match how smartphone viewers scroll up and down through messages. Nearly 50% of its e-mails are opened on mobile devices, Brand says. The retailer also updated its checkout flow to be cleaner and quicker, first for smartphone users, though it may later push the changes to other devices, too. “Many of those [smartphone designs] can be replicated for tablet and desktop,” he says.

HSN customers who interact with the retailer on a smartphone and on another device, such as a laptop, on average spend twice as much as customers who visit HSN from only one device, Brand says. “So if we can get her to the phone, desktop and mobile, we can really see a spike in her lifetime value,” he says. “It doesn’t matter which way a customer shops with us, just that she stays engaged with us.”

Mobile also brings in many new shoppers to HSN—22% of its mobile sales are from first-time customers, Brand says. After one purchase, he says he considers a shopper to be still testing the retailer out. Once she’s bought two or three items, HSN then tries to move her over to one of its five phone apps or two tablet apps, perhaps by sending her a special offer that rewards her for downloading an app, he says.

In the third quarter, revenue from smartphones and tablets accounted for 12% of HSN’s total revenue, an increase of 57% year over year, Brand says, and the retailer expects that number to continue growing, especially over the holiday season. HSN is No. 9 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 500, which ranks mobile commerce leaders by their mobile sales, up from No. 14 last year. It is also No. 24 in the 2013 Top 500 Guide.


Bill Brand, Black Friday, HSN, iPad app, m-commerce, Mobile, Mobile 500, mobile app, mobile commerce, mobile games, PayPal, smartphones, tablets