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Why social commerce and influencers are this generation's QVC
November 30, 2021
What is QVC?
QVC is a renowned network, which - when launched in 1986 - offered men and women around the world a way to more organically shop through the television, long before the introduction of commerce websites and social channels. Sure, infomercials had been around, but the language was often cheesy and overly sales-driven, obnoxiously invading the channel where you had previously been watching your favorite show. And yes, thick, printed magazines were regularly mailed to your home to show households the latest and greatest - if you took the time to carefully sift through the pages. QVC offered consumers a way to have more genuine, conversational interactions with hosts who brought charisma and a level of authenticity that was not able to be replicated effectively through other mediums.
Interested customers could call in and ask questions, give feedback, and engage with hosts and models without having to leave the confines of their own homes. As its own channel, it served as a form of entertainment that could easily run in the background and capture attention, obtaining sales with a simple call to the number always available on the screen. QVC was able to add immediacy to this purchase decision by offering discounts that would be discontinued within the confines of the show.
This same concept is being carried out today, but in a way that is more familiar to the younger generations and more easily scalable: social commerce and influencer marketing.
Social commerce: eye, try and buy - with the click of a button
QVC offers customers live action shopping. Social commerce takes this to the next level.
Nearly every social media platform has leaned more heavily into creating shopping integrations. This was certainly expedited by Covid-19, but consumer behavior was heading in this direction long before 2020. These technologies have enabled brands to go beyond simply retargeting consumers with forgotten carts. Brands are now dynamically showcasing their products from their website, live streaming new releases in an event-like setting (which, in some ways, could be considered the mobile and modernized version of QVC), and even using AR to allow potential buyers to try on products without going to a store or waiting for a product’s arrival. It allows for the instant gratification that shopping in-store can provide from anywhere. The new QVC is Quick, Visual Content on social.
Additionally, there are inherent social elements offered by the nature of the platforms that include adding comments to contribute thoughts and opinions, sharing favorite products with friends and family, and simply engaging with content with others in your social network and beyond. Social commerce is poised for continued growth that is accessible across generations because of its universal accessibility to anyone with a smartphone, the same way QVC is for anyone with cable television.
Influencers: trust, lust and bust out the wallet
QVC uses models to showcase their product features. Influencers accomplish something very similar for brands, but with the added benefit of their followers already having an affinity and trust for the influencer. As a result, their content has the ability to hop brands over the wall of brand awareness to the consideration phase. Consumers are more likely to lean on influencers’ opinions, as many will not partner with brands they do not truly support - both in terms of product and their company values.
Some brands take this a step further by establishing a longer-term partnership and gaining a brand ambassador who goes beyond just one or two posts on Instagram that may ultimately be deleted in one or two months. They are instead an ongoing face for the brand building full-funnel outcomes. Furthermore, content amplification allows the brand’s reach to extend beyond the influencer’s organic network to an expanded target audience across social and programmatic platforms, meaning even more ROI from the relationship.
Unlike QVC which focuses primarily on CPG and food and beverage products, influencers have the ability to extend to a much broader set of industries as there is a wide variety of content creators with diverse followings based on their niche interests.
How should brands click and collect on these trends?
A lot has evolved since QVC’s launch in the mid 80s, especially when it comes to commerce. For brands looking to expand purchases, an omni-channel commerce experience is almost always needed. Today, that means showing up wherever your consumers are spending the bulk of their time and removing anything that leads to friction in the purchase process. Social commerce and influencer marketing can be critical components of that equation, but can only be successful when executed through a well-thought out strategy that is right for the brand and not just a replica of other brands’ efforts.
While social commerce and influencer marketing may be considered the modern solution, marketers should not ignore the foundations that were established by programs like QVC. The success of these new tactics are based on historical learnings about commerce and do not reinvent the wheel. Many of the core concepts remain the same and the key difference is simply changes in where consumers are spending their time, and meeting them there.