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New QVC ToGather Platform Combines Social Shopping With E-Commerce

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As retailers look to take their e-Commerce business to the next level, they are turning their attention to burgeoning initiatives such as social shopping.

QVC is aiming to seize this opportunity by creating an entertaining social commerce platform where shoppers converge to discover products from around the world. The new online destination, called toGather, combines QVC’s full product and brand assortment, as well as hosts and a thriving customer community within a social e-Commerce space.

ToGather visitors can discover new products through a stream of recommendations from the people and brands they follow. They also can create personalized feeds by following shoppers and brands that share their senses of style. Once visitors click through trending items, or browse by category, they can select and pay through the integrated shopping cart.

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Millions of QVC customers already engage with QVC on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. For example, the QVC Facebook page has more than 1.2 million fans. Customers who interacted with one or more QVC social channels generated more than $500 million in revenue in the 12 months ended June 2013. In addition, the QVC e-Commerce business accounted for 41% of global QVC revenues as of Q3 2013.

The strong relationships and social interactions QVC customers have with the channel’s hosts lay the groundwork for greater engagement on social channels: One top host, David Venable, has 270,000 Facebook fans, while another popular host, Lisa Robertson, has 160,000 Facebook fans.
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Looking Beyond Utility

Marked innovation occurs when combining e-Commerce “with the entertainment and social aspects of window shopping that just never made it online,” said Craig Donato, VP of Social for QVC, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Traditional web stores such as Amazon ― though fast, convenient and mature ― are designed for utility, not for having fun while looking at products. Social shopping as an enjoyable online activity is a nascent arena ripe with possibilities.”

Donato said like many people, he goes onto Facebook to be entertained. “I stumble upon a different product, old acquaintance, song or story every time I’m there. The experience is grounded in social and serendipitous discovery, not intent. These same characteristics describe QVC on television: It looks and feels just like an entertaining Facebook encounter. QVC viewers enjoy discovering interesting new products and the stories about them told by people ― the QVC hosts ― that viewers recognize and trust. The human element is a core part of the QVC experience.”

The question became: “How do we take this TV experience that’s grounded in fun and social interaction, and leverage it online?” Donato explained. “Social commerce represents a huge white space of retail opportunity. The industry is entering a period of massive innovation as people consider ways to bring social shopping behaviors online and determine their role in this new trend.”

Donato is no stranger to social commerce: He is Founder and former CEO of Oodle, Inc., which provided the platform for the Oodle Marketplace application on Facebook.

“I was watching QVC on TV when it struck me: QVC is ideally suited to progress into social commerce,” Donato said. “No one understands social shopping better than QVC.”

QVC acquired Oodle in December 2012 and nine months later, toGather formally was introduced to the marketplace. The platform is based on the same social shopping technology previously developed by Oodle.

“To a large extent we are pioneering,” Donato stated. “We are listening to customers, adjusting features and already have more than 200,000 registered users. We are pleased with these metrics and will continue to lead the way in social shopping ― the next chapter of e-Commerce innovation.”

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