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Are Friends Electric? QVC Says Yes

QVC may not be the first televised home shopping network (that distinction belongs to HSN, founded four years earlier in 1982), but it has more than made up for its late start.

The $8.8 billion business, founded in 1986 by entrepreneur Joseph Segel, is a wholly owned subsidiary of media and digital commerce umbrella company Liberty Interactive, which has positions in Expedia, Time Warner, FTD and Lending Tree — and also owns a 38-percent chunk of the $3.6 billion HSN.

An e-shopping pioneer that predates by nearly a decade, QVC has built a fiercely loyal cross-channel customer base by weaving its televised pitches (reaching some 317 million households worldwide) with a wildly successful e-commerce and social media site that always brings shoppers back for more.

Indeed, as Wolfe Research analyst Aram Rubinson sees it, QVC is “an annuity” whose customers are “hooked” on the shopping platform the same way coffee lovers crave Starbucks, with both fan groups spending almost the same amount — roughly $1,400 each year — at their respective haunts.

Driving QVC’s customer loyalty is the foundation built by Segel when he named his fledgling business after his three guiding principles: quality, value and convenience. Those values, the company said, were created to build trust with consumers and create lifetime, avid fans.

Merchandising also plays a critical role. QVC presents a vast yet curated assortment of premium brands and often exclusive products, which draw a higher-income customer who’s willing to linger longer,

Although best known for its TV programming, comprised of product-themed shows hosted by on-air personalities, the retailer’s website, QVC. com, attracts more than 6 million unique visitors each month, and accounted for about 40 percent ($3.5 billion) of total annual sales last year. Of that, 41 percent came from mobile platforms, placing it third on Internet Retailer’s Mobile 500 ranking in 2014.

Leveraging its global omnipresence, QVC has also created a worldwide customer community that follows the blogs of its on-air hosts, interacts on the website’s user forums, and connects to its Facebook page, which is “liked” by 2 million fans.

Together, the platform represents a formidable selling machine that can pluck a manufacturer from obscurity and make it a household hit. As Innovative Technology founder Corey Lieblein recently told TWICE, “I spent two years begging QVC to take one of our music centers [Victrola-like consoles] and they finally gave in last year and put one in their Christmas in July event. They sold out their unit allotment, less than 1,000, in about 4.5 minutes. We got a significantly larger unit order to them for Christmas, and they blew through them too. This year the sky is the limit.”

The sky’s also the limit for QVC, which maintains state-of-the-art broadcast and e-commerce operations at its Studio Park corporate headquarters in West Chester, Pa., and operates four brick-and-mortar retail stores in Pennsylvania and Delaware. It ranks 22nd on TWICE’s Top 100 CE Retailers list, up from 24th place last year with $657 million in tech sales, a 7 percent increase, and president/CEO Mike George promises to continue scouring the globe for “the freshest products and ideas” and to “enhance our on-air and online programming by making it more engaging.”