The format for home shopping networks like HSN and QVC has remained the same for years: products loaded with kitsch, hawked by energetic salespeople who promise an incredible deal. HSN.com is one of the top 10 most visited e-commerce sites, and its presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube fill out HSN’s marketing mix. Today, even higher-end brands look for ways to reach the nearly 90 million households that watch it and similar shopping networks.

The television broadcasts thus are only the first step. The HSN channel simulcasts all its shows on its website, and customers have constant access to related YouTube footage. Across these media, shopping networks have developed a comparatively low key sales approach—for them at least. They use a talk show, lifestyle-oriented atmosphere to promise exclusive, branded products, such as HSN’s exclusive fragrance with Mary J. Blige, ELLE magazine–endorsed fashion products, and Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck lines of kitchenware,

This shift means home shopping is no longer limited to the television channel, even despite its very name. However, HSN and QVC certainly still understand the benefits of televised entertainment: A cooking “show” demonstrates to viewers how to make a recipe, offers some helpful hints, and then highlights all the pots and kitchenware for sale (which are also available on the website, of course). Jamie Oliver, the chef and show host, makes a pasta dish using Barilla pasta, with the brand displayed on screen, a great opportunity for  product placement. Oliver also mentions that the pasta is multigrain and a great source of protein, fiber, and omega 3 that tastes great too. In exchange, HSN receives advertising revenue from Barilla.

For consumers then, YouTube offers a seamless experience. Products promoted on HSN, such as Tori Spelling’s jewelry line, are available on YouTube almost immediately after they appear on television. Then HSN marketers can use the information gathered from YouTube to target their direct mail campaigns. For example, the company should can send jewelry promotions to households that viewed the YouTube video clip for a necklace from the Tori Spelling Collection. Consumer responses get monitored 24/7 and measured against hourly sales goals. There’s never a dull moment—it’s like the CNN of shopping.

Why does HSN provide a unique customer experience?

Barbara Thau, “HSN, QVC Makeover: Tacky Baubles Out, Couture In,” CNBC, August 18, 2010. Suzanne Vranica, “HSN Starts Mixing Ads Into Its Usual Sales Pitches,” The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2009. “In The Know,” YouTube, Fall 2009.

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