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How television and web retailer JTV tunes into mobile shoppers

July 18, 2016 12:06 PM
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At JTV.com, mobile sales are surging and account for about 45% of e-commerce sales. That's not 45% of traffic, but of sales, says Craig Shields, vice president of e-commerce for the television home shopping network and online retailer.

Online sales account for about 30% of the shopping network’s total revenue, Shields says. The remainder of JTV’s sales come from TV viewers, mainly between 40 and 60 years old, who call in to order. The network is available in about 86 million U.S. households.

But in recent years m-commerce has been changing for JTV, particularity when it comes to purchasing via smartphones. “The last two years conversions on smartphones have skyrocketed. A few years ago there was a lot of traffic on smartphones—a lot of browsing—but they would not transact on a smartphone. Now they are also ordering,” Shields says.

Today smartphones account for 60% of mobile traffic and revenue and tablets account for 40%. A few years ago those statistics were reversed, he says. Sales on tablets and smartphones combined are forecast to grow 32% to $71.7 million in 2016 from $54.5 million a year earlier, Shields says. JTV’s mobile conversion rate is 3.34% and its average mobile order value is $115.

Shields attributes the growth in buying from smartphones to the fact that the devices frequently are cast in a leading role in JTV’s shows. Hosts are increasingly pulling out their personal iPhones or Android smartphones and encouraging the audience to engage with them on social media. “They might say, ‘If you have any questions or requests, follow me on Facebook or Twitter,’” Shields says. “Many hosts have their own social media pages that we control where viewers can engage and ask questions.”

JTV, which is No. 207 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, also is experimenting with Facebook Live, which enables the retailer to stream a live video broadcast. JTV can use Facebook Live to connect with viewers in real time, field their questions and look at comments or reactions to see how the broadcast is being received.

“Our hosts can go on Facebook Live 10 minutes before a show and viewers can go behind the scenes in a control booth before we air,” Shields says. “We’ve been blown away at the viral effect. Videos have a higher number of shares than other posts.”

The retailer also is using Instagram to connect with shoppers. Its followers on that social network have grown 300% year over year.

“The way we see mobile and social media, it’s not really about the last click,” Shields says. “We really don’t get too bogged down to solve the attribution question. It’s more about engagement.”

The retailer, which uses Mobify for its mobile commerce platform, also has recently shifted its design and marketing strategy to mobile first, meaning its web design and technology staff first consider how pages and web content look on a mobile device before considering desktop design. And Shields says shifting mindsets to think about small screens before large isn’t easy.

“Frankly, it’s harder to do than you would think,” Shields says. “You buy your team 27-inch iMacs … digital design, marketing … everyone comes to work and sits at their desks with their computers in front of them. Merchandisers are still bogged down in all that’s beautiful and great detail. And then you tell them to start with designing on a smartphone. But in the end it forces you to design in a way that is cleaner, simpler and easier to use.”

For example, he says there are features and text on desktop and tablet pages that JTV eliminates from smartphone pages. On desktop product detail pages, a single piece of jewelry might have 15 attributes, from the metal purity to detail on the accent stones, Shields says. 

“All of a sudden you realize there is a lot of stuff on your desktop that isn’t really immediately important. It’s all probably interesting to someone, so we still make it available, but we might put it behind a tab so it’s a quick tap away.”

JTV entered the 2015 holiday sales season fresh off transitioning to mobile-first design, but it had been working on restructuring toward that design philosophy for 1.5 years. In that time, mobile conversion rates have doubled, Shields says. 

Intensifying its focus on mobile has also paid off in a way that JTV didn’t plan for—better ROI from digital advertising.

Paid search, retargeting and display ad conversion rates began significantly increasing rapidly because the increasingly mobile shopper now lands on a sleeker, easy-to use site carefully optimized for mobile, Shields says.

“We’ve been able to be significantly more aggressive on mobile ad spending,” Shields says. “As consumers are doing more and more on mobile, we’ve improved the conversions and now we spend more on mobile ads because it pays off.”

Currently about half of JTV’s digital marketing investment goes toward mobile, Shields says.

Shield’s advice to retailers is to invest in a solid mobile platform before throwing dollars into mobile marketing and advertising only to lead shoppers to a poor or subpar site. 

“All marketers want to invest more and spend more on digital marketing,” Shields says. “They will say all search is going toward mobile. But first you need to make the investment in the mobile platform itself.”  

 

 

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