5 Things HSN Learned About Mobile

This holiday season, retailer HSN (formerly the Home Shopping Network) had a clear mobile strategy. It wanted to give consumers various options in terms of how they access HSN products and the retailer used tactics like text messaging and mobile ads to try and get people to its mobile destinations.

Along the way, however, HSN learned a few things, which Ed Deutscher, vp of digital commerce and emerging platforms, talked about in a webinar yesterday. The gist of HSN’s learnings: QR codes and mobile ads aren’t your best options. Tablet apps and SMS work better. Here are five lessons HSN learned in mobile over the holidays.

1. Mobile ads don’t work
During the holidays HSN tested the effectiveness of mobile ads to drive people to its apps and mobile Web site. They didn’t work.

“Mobile ads are not as effective for messaging since real estate is limited on devices,” Deutscher said. “Customers are laser-focused on exactly what they came to your site or app to do: shop or consume content. Display ads are more of a distraction and simply do not captivate the customer. From our vantage point, rich media display ads are more of a nuisance and customers simply do not engage.”

2. Tablets are a big opportunity
HSN launched an interactive gift guide for iPad. Customers were able to swipe, pull and scroll through holiday gifts, and interact with a personal shopper feature for that hard-to-buy-for loved one.

“Interacting with products via touch capability is the new way to shop and will ultimately replace the grid format of both online and mobile shopping,” Deutscher said.

3. Pay attention to what competitors are doing
One thing that retailers and brands need to do it pay attention to where their competitors are lacking, but also where they are doing well. HSN does this and Deutscher said that he was most impressed by eBay, Target and Amazon over the holidays.

“EBay’s launch of its Pinterest-esque layout was strategic, innovative and right on time for the holiday season,” Deutscher said. “Target’s use of in-store QR codes created a scavenger-hunt experience. It was an intelligent way to lead customers to product while using phones that were more than likely in their hands anyway. When it comes to showrooming, Amazon was a clear winner with competitive pricing and shipping rates only to be combatted by big-box retailers with in-store price matching.”

4. QR codes stink
Over the holidays it showed a QR code to people watching its live channel on TV, so that they could use their phone to scan the code and drop to the current product being shown on the screen. The results weren’t anything to write home about.

“QR codes have interesting opportunities,” Deutscher said. “But there are other mediums that still reign supreme to them. SMS is simpler and works better. Customers know how to use text messaging. With QR, you still need an app.”

5. Mobile-only deals work
People need a reason to come and use a retailer’s mobile experience. Mobile-only deals and coupons give them the incentive to do so, Deutscher said. HSN did a lot with mobile deals during the holidays, via push notifications within its app and through promotional blasts to the retailer’s text-message loyalty club.

“Mobile-only deals and coupons continue to be winning tactics for retailers,” Deutscher said. “During the holiday season customers tend to be indoors, traveling or waiting in lines more than any time of the year. Seize the moment by deploying deals that entice and lead to sales.”

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