Mindy Grossman has transformed the Home Shopping Network from a struggling TV Cinderella into a glittering multi-platform princess, turning HSN into a hybrid media, entertainment, technology, and retail business with $3 billion a year in sales. As Grossman embarks on the next stage in the HSN revolution, she explains how live events, social connections, digital catalogues, and even game dynamics have come together to create an entirely new experience for shoppers.
When Mindy Grossman took over as HSN CEO in 2006, the petite blonde powerhouse (recently named one of the world's 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes magazine) had a huge job ahead of her. Formerly known as the Home Shopping Network, HSN was the frumpy, tacky channel that sold gemstones, gym gear, and holiday-themed sweaters. It had posted $941 million in sales and an operating income of $95 million--but most of that had come from Cornerstone, the mail-order house the company had recently acquired.
In six short years, Grossman not only took the company public during a recession, she boosted its sales to $3 billion a year, and completely changed its profile. HSN is no longer just a direct seller, or even a television network, Grossman says, but is now a hybrid media, entertainment, technology, and retail business.
The company that was once kryptonite to designers and celebrities has now become their go-to collaborator. Iman, Emeril Lagasse, Giuliana Rancic, Padma Lakshmi, Jonathan Adler, Liz Lange and Mariah Carey all hawk their wares on HSN. That, in turn, has made Hollywood sit up and take note: HSN has partnered with movies and television shows like Snow White and the Huntsman, The Help, and True Blood. Lionel Richie, Bret Michaels, and Rod Stewart have given concerts on the network this year (while selling their CDs), and HSN recently partnered with Toyota to sell their hybrid cars.
But despite all these high-profile partnerships, Grossman's biggest move was to invest heavily in digital, particularly gaming and mobile, turning HSN into what she calls a "boundary-less experience," while showing a unique ability to adapt as that technology transformed the retail landscape.
TURNING ONE-TIME INTO LONG-TIME
When most people think of a "gamer," they don't picture a chic, white-collar, well-dressed, and well-groomed woman in her mid-thirties--one who's earning reward points to spend at HSN.com. But then, most people don't picture the world like Grossman.
"We were doing a lot of work around our consumer," she explains. "She loves to shop, but she also loves to share on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. We also knew she loved casual games, which have the same psychology as shopping--combining the thrill of the hunt with reward and a passion for getting to the next level. My obsession was, 'If our customer is doing these things anyway, why can't she do them all with us?'"
Now they can, through the HSN Arcade, which has become an integral part of HSN's digital strategy. The idea is to replicate the "stickiness" of social and gaming platforms since the longer someone stays on a site, the more likely they are not only to buy but to talk up the experience to their friends, and thus bring in more customers.
When the the arcade launched a year ago, "We didn't really know what to expect," Grossman admits. "Our strategy was to give people more reasons to engage with the HSN brand, and to acquire and retain customers. We now have close to 90 million games played, with a half million registered players. The length of time people spend on the site is two to three times higher, and we're seeing an increase in sales. It's about having a little fun and making the one-time customer a long-time customer."
More importantly, the demographics--or "psycho-graphics"--of the company have changed, driven by its commitment to gaming and technology. The average age of the HSN customer is now 55, with an aggregate income of $70,000. But, as Grossman points out, "We are seeing that the entry point for new customers is more in the 35-45 age range. Customers coming from digital, and specifically through mobile, are younger, more affluent, and more diverse." While 26 percent of HSN's customers earn $100,000 plus, Grossman points out, "On the digital side [that percentage] is much higher." Mobile, then, is the driving force attracting new, younger, and more affluent customers to the brand.
We are committed to giving our customer the opportunity to experience HSN on her terms, whenever and wherever she chooses.
THE TRULY PERSONAL SHOPPER
The online and mobile business at HSN is now up to $1.4 billion a year in sales, comprising 35-40 percent of total revenues, and is based around the company's motto: Content, Community, and Commerce. "Digital and mobile have increased multi-channel shopping behavior, conversion, and engagement," Grossman says. "It's really driven new customer acquisition and assimilation, and provided engagement between purchase cycles."
On the community side, that means engaging consumers on their own terms, with personal and flexible experiences. "We are focused on extending our multi-channel experience and offering our customers more and more innovative ways to engage with us," Grossman explains. "We are committed to giving our customer the opportunity to experience HSN on her terms, whenever and wherever she chooses. Whether it's via her smartphone or tablet, we provide a seamless, personalized experience that is engaging and compelling to her."
No less compelling are new content initiatives that take advantage of HSN's multiple channels, and which can now be consumed on multiple screens. "Several years ago we embarked upon a journey to transform the HSN brand and business from a single-channel operation into a multi-screen network of experiences designed to inspire and ignite our customers' passion to learn and explore," Grossman says.
For example, when Rod Stewart performed on the network, viewers could watch it on traditional TV, tablets, or mobile, and exclusive online extras included a live pre-show on Facebook; behind-the-scenes green room images on Pinterest and Instagram; and an additional song that aired exclusively on HSN's social network sites.
The result is a virtuous circle that leads consumers back to the final part of the company's motto: Commerce. Because the more engaged they are, the more products they'll buy.
On January 8, HSN.com re-launched with a fresh design and a pop-up platform that Grossman says will up the site's community, games, and dynamic content elements. The company will also focus on mobile and tablet sales. "The customer's needs and wants don't really change, but they don't seek us out anymore," Grossman adds. "We have to be where they are - consistently informing, engaging, and entertaining them. It's about creating a community and creating that connection. You have to talk to your customers' needs and remember that they are a part of a larger group. Ask yourself: 'Who are they going to share with? Will it be engaging and compelling to them?'"
These days Grossman can more often than not be found on a plane--traveling from HSN headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, to meet with movie executives in Los Angeles, fashion and music bigwigs in New York, and tech power players in San Francisco. All in the pursuit of branching out and expanding HSN and its customer base.
"We are more than a collection of dynamic brands," Grossman concludes. "We offer an immersive shopping experience that responds to and anticipates our customers' lifestyles. Our live events, our social connections, our digital catalogues, even our gaming platform, all create new experiences for our customer--and those experiences consistently drive additional sales."
Written by Paula Froelich