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Although QVC may have set the blueprint for modern-day livestream shopping, which was accelerated by the pandemic, the televised home shopping network was not exempt from the challenges of the past year. 

“[QVC] still had its own complexities for the way that we thought about the business, the way that our associates were engaged and [the way that our] team members were engaged in connecting with customers,” said Brian Beitler, CMO of QVC U.S. and HSN. 

QVC was also tasked with adapting to changes in customer preferences, as the demand for categories outside of the beauty and wellness spaces increased. “We saw those categories that were built around creating a sanctuary at home take off,” said Beitler. “That included everything from [investing in] home decor to bringing your gym inside your home, so that you could take care of your body and your health, to evolving even your beauty routines and rituals.”

In conjunction with evolving alongside consumers, Beitler said that the unique experience that QVC provides its customers is also crucial for its success.

“People [were] looking to be able to get the kind of experience and education that they might have been getting in a retail experience,” said Beitler. “We’re set up very much from a video commerce perspective to give you some of that social experience that happens in the store.”

And while QVC and HSN may be “the original innovator[s] in this space,” there is still room for the network to grow, especially as competition ensues between different livestream shopping platforms, said Beitler.

“We’ve been working over the last several years to innovate our storytelling in these spaces and to access more of the places that we tell these stories,” said Beitler. Since launching on Roku in 2013, QVC has recently expanded its accessibility to devices like Amazon Fire TV and Comcast Flex.

Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

Out with the ‘e’ in e–commerce, and in with the ‘v’
“What was so powerful about retail experiences was the relationships you built with the shopkeepers and the proprietors of those stores. And candidly, in many ways, shopping was as much about fulfilling a need as it was about passing time and enjoying recreation. What livestream does well, [though] it doesn’t have the physical environment, is it brings the connection of shopping with people into the experience. As more consumers discover this and as more brands enter, we’ll see a very large movement from what we might call e-commerce to ‘v-commerce.’ E-commerce will feel flat and static, with images and copy, and [virtual]-commerce will become this new way of having that almost social pastime experience of discovery.”

A more genuine connection 
“Much of our business model had been built on bringing these guests from all over the world into our studios to tell their stories on air, alongside our hosts. Now we were going to move them to remote [studios], but we still wanted you to feel the same kind of energy and the connection. What I don’t think we anticipated was just how much appreciation and how much love would come from our customers in that new model. Being able to be transported into [the hosts’] spaces made it more authentic and made those guests more real, and in many ways, [it became] more emotional for our customers to connect with [them]. The outcome was, in many ways, consumers saying, ‘Wow, it’s amazing to go into the home of Harry Slatkin for candles or into the Beekman [boys’] homes … versus in our space. [It] brought a new level of connectivity and a new level of authenticity to the storytelling that we’re grateful [for].”

Transparency is key in a host-customer relationship
“There are a couple of things that are important in the foundation of the relationship [between the host and audience]. One is a real love for your customer and understanding who they are and what they value. A lot of times sellers come with a perspective of, ‘I built a great product, and you should just love this product.’ Hosts and guests that understand and want to understand the consumer, and know how to talk to the consumer at a very transparent and authentic level, are truth-tellers at their core, in the way that they connect with people. And when people hear them, they go, ‘I don’t believe I’m being sold; I believe I’m just being told or taught something about the product.’”