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QVC debuts TV shopping on the Apple Watch

March 12, 2015 06:51 PM
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QVC Group is ready to go when the Apple Watch hits stores April 24. The TV retailing giant, No. 5 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Mobile 500, has added Apple Watch functionality to its iPhone app, which launched in 2009. QVC's iPhone and iPad apps have been downloaded nearly 3 million times and are rated 4.5 out of 5 stars in the Apple App Store.

A customer who uses the QVC app on her iPhone and who uses an Apple Watch can view Today’s Special Value and On Air products from QVC on her Apple Watch, including product details, ratings and other select content. She can push a product to her iPhone for further exploration or to purchase. When she turns her iPhone on, the phone automatically will open the QVC app and automatically default to the product page of the item she selected.

But for retailers, is the main significance of the long-awaited Apple Watch that they will have a new channel to manage? Not in the view of Alex Miller, senior vice president, digital commerce, at QVC. He says the Apple Watch confirms and furthers a trend toward the fragmentation of Internet use and online shopping that forces retailers to be more nimble and attentive than ever before to respond to developments.

“Wearables like the Apple Watch are one part of a bigger story—the fragmentation of content,” Miller says. “QVC, for example, used to exclusively be a TV experience. Then we expanded to the Internet, and then to mobile. Our iPad app now is focused on the ‘second screen experience’ for discovery, which displays items on air and offers a live video stream, versus our web site, which is focused on searching for every product we offer. The Apple Watch features in our iPhone app enable customers to view Today’s Special Value and On Air products on their watch, and then push those products to the iPhone app; when they turn their iPhone on, it automatically opens the QVC app and automatically displays that product page.”

Fragmentation of shopping and all Internet use will continue, Miller adds, as home appliances start boasting web-connected display panels and cars run mobile apps, for example.

For the time being, not including apps created by Apple itself, there is no such thing as an Apple Watch app. (Note the mock-up in the adjacent image.) Apple released the latest version of iOS 8 this week, which includes Apple Watch features and functions. Retailers add Apple Watch functionality to their iPhone apps to connect the smartphone and smartwatch. As a result, QVC says the investment for a retailer with an iPhone app to enable Apple Watch functionality is minimal because the retailer already has the iPhone app built and the mobile infrastructure in place—it’s simply a matter of adding new features to the iPhone app using the Apple Watch Kit, which Apple provides for free. QVC declines to reveal the exact cost of adding smartwatch features to its iPhone app.

QVC says it has a fairly unique proposition as a retailer when it comes to promoting products through the Apple Watch.

“When customers glance at their watch to see the time, they also can easily and quickly see the item currently on air,” says Venkatesh Natarajan, vice president of I.T. apps development at QVC. “It’s even easier than pulling your iPhone out of your pocket to see the item. The primary use case for the Apple Watch features are for when customers are not at home.”

Apple is calling what QVC has enabled a “glance experience.”

“I don’t think many brands have this check-in culture that we have, so wearables might not be a natural extension for every merchant,” says Miller. He adds that QVC will offer Apple Watch users push notifications, but that QVC out of the gate is going to be extraordinarily judicious about sending these tiny messages because it does not want to be perceived as annoying its customers on a device as personal as a watch.

QVC does not presently have plans for Android smartwatch connectivity because it says the Android market is far too fragmented in terms of both hardware and software. “With Android you have 15 watches and different versions of the OS; with Apple you have one watch and one OS,” Natarajan says. “No Android smartwatch has momentum like the Apple Watch will have on Day One.”

Smartwatches add to the immense opportunity that all mobile devices offer retailers today, says Ramsey Masri, CEO of OtherLevels, a mobile marketing firm whose specialties include mobile messaging and mobile analytics. Clients include multinational hotel company IHG, Australian grocer Coles and global game developer Sega.

“Brands and marketers can converse individually with mobile-carrying consumers based on the consumers’ activities, locations, interests, known preferences and other data points provided by the mobile environment,” Masri says. “Smartphones, smartwatches and mobile apps remove much of the guesswork from messaging, for example, opening the door for the kinds of personalized content, offers and interactions consumers want and have agreed to receive by downloading an app and opting in. Savvy mobile marketers and retailers take advantage of that eagerness to engage.”

Follow Bill Siwicki, editor of the Internet Retailer 2015 Mobile 500 and editor, mobile, of Internet Retailer, on Twitter at @IRmcommerce and @MobileStrat360B.

 

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