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The Mall’s Not Dead, It’s Digital

Driving a 360-degree marketplace with real-time data 4/21/2017 11:15:00 AM Eastern

The promise of e-commerce, born in no small part from the massive proliferation of data available in the digital arena, continues to pay dividends and foster disruption in equal measure; it all depends on which side of the divide you are on.

For almost every want or need any retailer is trying to serve today, there is a consumer on digital looking for the same.  Matching up buyer and seller in this virtual bazaar is the mandate of any retailer on the right side of the divide, and businesses must be nimble in terms of how they respond to consumer wants, needs and overall shopping trends.

In order to better track, understand and react to this proliferation of data, QVC — a leading multiplatform retailer with $8 billion-plus in annual revenues globally — developed a proprietary internal process, DART (data analysis response technology), that enables us to vastly broaden how we interpret our customers’ shopping behavior, and to apply their feedback to the way we merchandise in the moment.

With engagement across social, web, mobile and TV platforms, QVC has a tremendous audience and user base that allows us to draw upon and analyze reams of data in real time.

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The team of analysts that staffs the DART room monitor dozens of data flows focused on the day’s sales performance, in addition to completing deep, advanced analytics/reporting for the business in digital and viewership. This not only enables them to adjust future offerings accordingly, but actually react and adjust QVC’s approach nearly instantaneously.

One of the most straightforward ways that DART helps guide inventory is through customer demand — say virtual reality [VR] is a trending search topic on the site, but there is no inventory. Using that fact, QVC’s merchandising team can quickly pivot and stock the site with VR goggles.

The DART team under QVC VP Peter Goodnough provides the ultimate in retail responsiveness.

Or, common questions popping up in the ratings and reviews on QVC.com or on social media can quickly be displayed via on-air graphics and answered by the host or updated in the product detail section of the website.

General chatter on social-media channels also helps to inform future promotions. For example, if there is an increase in searches or social media mentions around over-the-knee boots and bomber jackets for the fall, we can highlight those specific products in email marketing, social, and e-commerce.

At a deeper level, the DART team is able to analyze time stamps of on-air dialogue and match it to digital data to show what action was taken, helping to shine a light on on-air mentions that are helping to drive spikes in sales and encouraging hosts to incorporate them in future appearances.

The system’s real-time dashboards can also provide insights on each item’s sales, indexed by location in the U.S. Take for example the Revers-a-Brella, a double layer, inverted, no drip umbrella.  In real-time, the team was able to see that sales were over-indexing in the Southeast and California, link that to increased rainy weather in the regions, and geo-target promotional efforts to customers in those areas resulting in single-day sales of close to 170,000 units.

And so the shopping mall, that traditional gathering place for any and all looking for something new, takes shape now virtually, matching buyers and items from around the world throughout the course of any given day. By recording and analyzing consumer demand in the moment, retailers can tailor their sales methods and items, from the breadth of geography to the specificity of the individual, to pinpoint demand.

While the first inclination may be to outsource this work, QVC developed DART in-house to leverage our team’s in-depth knowledge of our company’s unique retail model, diminishing the pain points that often come with force-fitted and non-custom solutions.

Today’s retail environment demands constant innovation and responsiveness to shifting customer needs. Your customers are already telling you what they are looking for. Are you listening?

Peter Goodnough is consumer insights and analytics VP at QVC.
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