Selling professional products outside of a spa – whether in a department store, online or via the TV – has traditionally been frowned on. It’s believed that customers don’t get the necessary advice about the higher grade skincare and that retail is being taken away from operators.
However, brands which have made the leap into the world of TV shopping would argue otherwise. In an hour’s slot, qualified therapists educate viewers about products and give treatment advice and guidance, with techniques demonstrated on a model. Customers can even call in with queries to be answered live on air.
Shopping channels can give a product brand exposure to a new audience – QVC is broadcast in six countries and 296 million homes – and can increase spa footfall by up to 20 per cent. Today there are over 20 professional brands on QVC including ESPA, Murad, Decléor, Jurlique, Perricone, Elemis, L’Occitane and Gatineau.
These companies are realising that consumers need to trust the brands they purchase, particularly products that are put on the face. Confidence is built through raising awareness and giving exposure via multiple platforms.
QVC, a subsidiary of US media conglomerate Liberty Interactive, launched in North America in 1986 and expanded to the UK seven years later. Today shows are also aired in Germany, Italy, Japan and China, while France and is next on the list.
Each country is run as a separate entity, but in total QVC broadcasts to 296 million homes worldwide. Traditionally, purchases have been made via calls, but items can now also be bought via its website and smartphone apps and it has a presence on numerous social media platforms. In 2013, worldwide revenue stood at US$8.6bn (€6.3bn, £5bn), up 1 per cent from the previous year, and US$2.8bn (€2bn, £1.6bn) of that revenue came from its combined international territories.
Demographics of viewers are hard to pin down says Sarah Adam, a skincare buyer at QVC UK, but “they’re a really savvy bunch, because QVC educates them about the products.” She says they often ask “questions you need a therapist to answer” because they have sophisticated skincare routines, using a mix of separate cleansers, toners, serums, moisturisers and boosters for day and night, rather than just one or two products.
A brand will have around five to seven live shows a month (plus pre-recorded sessions) and these are scheduled for different days of the week at various times to ensure they’re connecting with a cross section of people. According to Adam: “There’s absolutely no science behind who watches what and when. Pay day [at the end of the month] doesn’t make a difference and we’re just as busy in January as we are at Christmas. It also depends what else is on TV – in the past, beauty brands have been up against Andy Murray’s final at Wimbledon and the birth of the royal baby. Having a compelling product is what makes the biggest difference.”
A live show comprises 57 selling minutes where a brand will feature three main, 20-minute offers. This fits in with typical viewing patterns, as people tend to switch channels on the hour and at 15-minute intervals.
The star of a show will be Today’s Special Value (TSV) – a product or collection that’s been created for QVC and sold at a very low price for one day. The TSV will still be sold after launch but at a higher price. Brands usually launch three to five TSVs a year.
Read on to find out how three leading spa product suppliers are using QVC.
On 17 November last year, Elemis sold £4m (US$6.9m, €5m) on its TSV over 28 hours, including eight hours of live shows. It’s the best result Elemis has had in its 20 years on the channel. The six Piece Face & Body Indulgence Collection included a full size (290ml) Jasmine & Rose Milk Bath, a product launch for that day, along with five other Elemis hero items. The collection was sold for £39.96 (US$67, €50)) and was worth £120 (US$201, €151) at full value. In total, 105,000 units were sold.
“We plan our TSVs up to 12 months in advance to maximise exposure and to economise on buying ingredients, packaging, freighting and posting,” says Kate Minty, Elemis’ head of global TV commerce. “To be successful on QVC, you have to invest in personnel and stock and really plan for the long term.”
But just how can Elemis afford to offer a deal with a such a big discount? “It’s the volume of sale,” says Minty. “QVC will commit to selling a certain number of units and it has the buying power to purchase thousands of products at a time.”
Minty says here’s no science in picking what product to include “because if you start doing that you’ll [always] deliver the same thing and become predictable”. But QVC does expect vendors to deliver something unique. “Sometimes we’ll develop special sizes or put a different combination of products in a collection,” says Minty. Plus, there’s usually only one full size product, so that customers are enticed to buy more when items run out.
Keeley Aydin, who’s been presenting Elemis on QVC for 13 years – and a therapist for 21 years – says guiding viewers on how to use the products is key to selling. “We see a spike in calls when we educate customers,” she says.
While there isn’t a script, Aydin repeats key words and phrases throughout the show including: ‘British’, ‘spa brand’, ‘finest ingredients combined with the latest technology’ and ‘results driven’.
She may mention the opening of a new spa, or a map will indicate where Elemis facilities are – all of which helps to drive custom to bricks and mortar businesses too. There’s clear evidence that footfall and sales at Elemis rise by 20 per cent whenever there’s a show on QVC. “I have my own day spa in the UK and 80 per cent of my customers have come to me via QVC,” says Aydin. “Sixty per cent of my turnover is from retail products. If I know there’s a TSV coming up, I’ll offer treatments that use products that weren’t included in it to encourage more sales. There’s no reason why other operators couldn’t use QVC as a tool to increase revenue too.”
“QVC allows for a great relationship between the buyer and the brand,” says Shimon Kalichman, director of marketing and communications at L’Occitane. The consumer and professional product company (see SB12/4 p30) launched on QVC UK in 1999 and on QVC US just a year later. “The multi-channel operation gets our products onto the screens in 26.1 million UK homes and we benefit from its loyal, 1 million active customs [viewers who bought something in the last year].”
Kalichman adds that after a show, L’Occitane has more customers in its stores and website traffic goes up. “Viewers are curious about the featured products and want to physically try them or learn more about certain ranges online before making their purchase.
“Having worked with QVC for 15 years, we’ve built up a good understanding of what our customers like and that includes great service, good value offers and getting hold of new and exclusive products. They particularly love our hand creams – we’ve sold over 1 million 150ml Shea Butter Hand Creams alone on QVC.”
Of course TSV collections, which always feature best-selling products and are great value for money, are a big hit for L’Occitane. One of its most successful was the Christmas 2013 kit containing eight products, one of which was a super-sized (500ml) shower product, in a QVC tote bag. L’Occitane offered three options of the TSV which sold for £44.97 (US$75, €57) at a discount of 50 per cent. “One kit sold out at 11am, another at 2pm and the final one at 5pm,” says Alexis Murdoch, who’s been L’Occitane’s presenter on QVC in the UK since it first aired.
She was broadcasting on the day of the Christmas special and says she stuck to her usual selling techniques. “L’Occitane is a joy to sell on air, as we have so many true stories. I tend to talk about my own personal experience with the products too.
“It’s very important for us to show textures, demonstrate how the products behave on the skin and to describe the beautiful smells. It’s quite tricky to do justice to our lovely fragrances on TV, so we also use a graphic of fragrance pyramids with images of ingredients which help to ‘paint a scented picture’.”
“As a professional French skincare brand, we’re understood and in demand in the UK and Italy which is why we have shows on QVC in those countries,” says Kate John, the senior account director for Gatineau UK. The company’s had shows on QVC UK for 18 years and the Christmas TSV alone accounts for 15-20 per cent of the company’s total annual retail sales.
Last year, the 2013 TSV included two super sizes of an anti-ageing night elixir and handcream, plus a regenerating lift cream and lip care product in a large bag. The total value of the products was £263.28 (US$451, €330) and QVC sold it for just £59.88 (US$103, €75).
Gatineau offers five TSVs a year on QVC, each of which include four or five items that have been specifically chosen to work as part of a skincare routine or to address a certain skincare need.
John adds: “QVC drives awareness of the brand. After the shows, the volume of customer calls trebles, with clients requesting the location of spas and salons and more product information.”
Show presenters include Andrew Bagley, head of Gatineau UK, and training director Michaela Taylor. “They position the story and heritage of our brand, explain our products, research, technology and ingredients,” says John. “They demonstrate how to use the products and their effects on the skin, and also offer professional advice.
“QVC allows us to educate a really knowledgeable and savvy customer and to give a level of service and information that’s not traditionally viable in retail. The QVC customer is very engaged, meaning that we get frequent feedback which allows us to focus on their needs and, in turn, helps us to plan for future success.”