We talk to the TV channel's IT and tech buyer Paul Felix to clear up misconceptions around TV shopping

QVC interview: The challenge of selling tech on TV

With one million active customers, QVC offers computer brands an alternate sales avenue, but what tech sells well on TV and how does the business model differ?

We asks the channel’s IT and tech buyer Paul Felix to clear up some misconceptions around TV shopping and how brands can get involved this year.

PCR: What are the challenges of selling live on-air?

Paul Felix: The beauty of QVC is it’s in real time. Every three seconds we get information like buying patterns fed back directly from consumers, so we are able to tweak our sale on-air. For instance, if we’re selling a tablet and start talking about its 12-hour battery life, we’ll know if that appeals to the consumer pretty much immediately. Then we can continue to know whether it’s the battery, processor or screen resolution they’re interested in. 

Before selling an item live, will you have a starting price and lowest possible price in mind? Do you change prices on the fly?

In a way that’s a misconception within TV shopping. The channel you’d be referring to would be the likes of Bid Up where they will set a price point then drop it to some ridiculous number. QVC doesn’t work like that. The first time you ever see a product on QVC it will have the most affordable price from us. The next time you see it, it will be more expensive. 

We negotiate what we believe is the strongest price for a product. We will not reduce the price of a product at least 30 days after it’s been to air, and that’s only in certain circumstances. 

What is QVC’s involvement in computing and tech? 

QVC as is a multi-channel retailer covering various categories, from jewellery to health and fitness, and electronics is a big part of the business as well. We sell traditional consumer electronics like TVs, mobile phones, satnav, audio and IT-related products – anything from tablet computers to desktops and all-in-ones. I’d say tech makes up about 25 per cent of the business’ turnover, so we’re a pretty big player.

Do you have set tech TV shows each week?

Yes. There will be dedicated live broadcasting airtime for tech, predominantly over the weekend. Also, we have what we call ‘Today’s Special Value’ which is our deal of the day. If that’s a tech product we’ll also have a dedicated home show on the weekend at 11am. We like to identify one big hero product and put all of the promotional activity behind it.

What sort of qualities do you look for in a product and a brand?

As far as your core categories go, such as tablets, we’re still looking to maintain the ‘A’ brands. We do very well with gadgety products. For example, there’s a mouse that can scan pages up to A3 in size. If that’s sitting on a shelf in PC World or John Lewis, it just looks like an expensive mouse for £80. But by demonstrating it and educating the customer, we really can bring products like that to life. 

Do you sell to any businesses or are all of your customers end consumers?

They’re predominantly consumers. There may be small offices or people working from home buying from us, but it’s mainly end users, especially female buyers with an average age of 35 to 65. 

Do you source goods from tech distributors or from vendors direct?

A good mix of both. We deal with the likes of Exertis, Tech Data, Westcoast and some others like Peak. I do all my negotiations, conversations and range planning with brands direct. However, the deal itself will go through a distribution partner. 

You also have two QVC stores as well as a website – how do they compare to your TV channel?

The sales we generate online are driven by what people watch on the TV. About 35 per cent of our customers will buy online or via our iOS/Android app. Our stores are heavily weighted in beauty, jewellery and fashion, with a smaller emphasis on electronics.

What is your focus for 2015? 

We’ll still be focusing on the core areas like tablets. There’s been a bit of a resurgence in laptops for us, predominantly driven by lower price points the manufacturers are able to hit because of the support they’ve been getting from Microsoft. We’re also looking at wearable technology opportunities and the connected home is a big focus for us too. We believe that’s still in its infancy, especially with our customers, so we’re not quite at saturation point with that.

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