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HSN to create dedicated team for mobile commerce


 NEW YORK – An HSN Inc. executive revealed at Netbiscuits Partner Day 2010 that his company decided a dedicated mobile team is necessary to differentiate itself from competitors and ramp up its mobile commerce initiatives.

HSN, a multichannel retailer with assets spanning its television network, online and mobile, is seeing the most growth from its mobile commerce properties. Accordingly, the company is placing an increasing emphasis on the mobile Web and applications for smartphones and tablets.

“We’re a TV company, but really we’re a multichannel retailer, and mobile is now our fastest growing channel across all platforms,” said David Whiteside, senior manager of software engineering at, St. Petersburg, FL. “It’s no surprise for HSN to move into the mobile platform, as we’ve always been known as a commerce innovator.

“We beat [competitor] QVC into the mobile space,” he said. “We’re providing great convenient ways for people to shop wherever they are.

“Mobile commerce is real and growing rapidly—mobile is the third channel of multichannel commerce.”

HSN is no stranger to the mobile space.

Earlier this month, HSN became one of the initial partners of the newly launched Sprint ID, which lets users of three just-announced Android smartphones customize their handset with applications, widgets, ringtones and wallpapers (see story).

In July, Sony Pictures Entertainment and interactive multichannel retailer HSN formed a strategic marketing alliance for an ambitious multichannel campaign featuring mobile to support the studio’s motion picture “Eat Pray Love” (see story).

Also that month, HSN launched a Netbiscuits-powered mobile-optimized version of the retailer’s top-ten trafficked ecommerce site (see story).

In April, HSN partnered with Microsoft Silverlight to launch a commerce-enabled application (see story).

In March, HSN debuted an application for Google’s Android operating system that lets consumers make purchases using their handset (see story).

HSN’s mobile commerce application for Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch launched in August of last year (see story).

HSN was also one of the first retailers to offer live steaming TV across the Web and mobile.

Betting on the growth of mobile commerce
HSN’s mobile strategy has been built around the insight that its core audience—females ages 35-55—is interested in using applications for iPhone and Android and accessing its mobile Web site.

Mr. Whiteside admitted that HSN has made some mistakes along the way.

When its iPhone application debuted in 2009, it pushed people from the mobile product page to the main Web site for check-out.

“It was not the best experience, but people did go ahead and buy that way anyway, and we gained learnings,” Mr. Whiteside said.

With a growing list of requirements and expectations for its mobile properties, and with the realization that it would be impossible to develop and maintain applications for all of the many mobile platforms, the company knew that it had to take a step back and reformulate its mobile stategy.

“We said we need to probably just stop, rethink where we are, come up with a revamped strategy and build something we can move forward with,” Mr. Whiteside said.

That led to HSN deciding to rewrite its WAP, iPhone and Android sites and give its applications a tune-up to take advantage of each smartphone’s native features for better performance and usability.

Once they get through the checkout funnel, providing a common destination to finalize the purchase is key, per Mr. Whiteside.

HSN’s goal for its mobile properties is to let its customers browse and buy items just as they would on, including product search and reviews.

The retailer is currently developing an iPad application, and it has other big plans for enhancing its mobile presence.

“To maintain market leadership in the mobile space, we’re planning to integrate social gaming and loads of other programs into our mobile platforms, with a focus on personalized offerings,” Mr. Whiteside said. “We’re looking to put a dedicated mobile team together.

“Mobile commerce is a great business, and it’s thriving, but we do need a dedicated team to come up with a strategy spanning IT, multiplatform, creative, content and marketing,” he said. “We need to embed mobile into our project planning and budget process.

“Since launching the mobile site and our apps, we’ve seen 75 percent growth from Q2 to Q3, which shows that mobile commerce is a huge opportunity—it’s difficult to gauge how much is increased revenue and not just people switching from one platform to another, but mobile is definitely a way to attract new customers.”

Mr. Whiteside at Netbiscuits Partner Day 2010:

Mobile Commerce Daily’s Mickey Alam Khan:

Final Take