Home-shopping Home Runs
By Ron Perlstein
Eight secrets to grand-slam sales.
Home shopping is a merchandising phenomenon unlike anything we've ever experienced in modern civilization. It's a 24-hours-a-day shopping mall without a parking problem, without a dress code, and without kids or husbands slowing down the driving force behind this $10 billion product pipeline.
Yes, I said no husbands.
Because, truth be told, it's the female of our species who has made home shopping the miracle of modern merchandising.
So, if your target market is females over the age of 40, get ready to turn home shopping into a home-run derby for every product in your line.
A Loyal Fan Base
To get a sense of just how powerful home shopping has become as a sales and distribution channel, just look at the statistics. The Home Shopping Network's (HSN) audience is a good example. HSN has a loyal base of viewers with a household income of $61,000 or more, and 75 percent of them are females between the ages of 25 and 54. Yes, it's a woman's world.
Home shopping truly is a shopper's dream—a combination of a women's talk show and a fashion show, with rotating hosts … and it's on 24 hours a day.
These hosts are some of the most talented people in television today—true superstars who aren't given nearly enough credit for the charismatic genius they demonstrate on a round-the-clock basis.
Just listen to and watch any one of the four major home shopping networks: QVC, HSN, Shop at Home and ShopNBC. What you will see is relationship-building that defies comparison in the world of mass media. Each host has her or his own style, but they all have infectious personalities. They are pros at mass communication, able to establish and build on relationships in a friend-to-friend way that is irresistible. In fact, each one has her or his own fan base, legions of loyal viewers who strongly identify with that host's tastes and personal style. And it's live!
No wonder home shopping sales keep increasing 10 percent a year. And what's selling is what women love to shop for most: clothes, jewelry and anything and everything for the home. However, the field is wide open. Although a couple of the networks have concentrated on certain product areas, America's fastest growing means of mass merchandising is aggressively seeking product across all categories—everything from brand-name goods to garage-hatched inventions.
How to Hit a Home Run
But enough about this medium's potential. The question is, where does your product fit in? How can you capitalize on the future growth of this amazing distribution channel known as home shopping? That brings us to the eight secrets of home shopping success.
1. Make sure your product has mass-market appeal. Television is the granddaddy of mass media, so the broader your product's appeal, the greater your chances of success. Just think of how many people click by home shopping channels every day as they surf through their programming options. If an item catches their eye, they're going to stop and hear out your pitch. And if everything else is in sync, you've got a sale. It's instant revenue, without the retail supply chain eating into your margin.
2. If you can't offer a network an exclusive, create one. Home shopping networks want exclusives. They want to be able to tell their audience, "You won't see this item anywhere else." You can bargain your way into their parade of products by creating exclusivity. Create added value by offering quantity discounts, even if it's just a two-for-one deal. Or bundle your product with an accessory or carrying case. Give the network an exclusive on a range of colors. Or modify your product just enough to make your home shopping offer unique in some way that can be incorporated into the host's value proposition.
3. Your home shopping offer better be the best deal—bar none. Home shopping networks insist on offering their viewers the absolute best price, no matter where else a product is available to the public. That goes for brand-name items, as well. So if you want to hit some home-shopping home runs, allow the network to offer the audience a value proposition that's the best you offer anywhere. Remember, with this channel of distribution you're selling direct.
4. Show and tell to sell it. Show-and-tell is the basis of sales success in the world of home shopping. And the more you tell the more you sell, so work every second of the eight-plus minutes your product has in the limelight. And never forget that television is a visual medium; if the features and benefits of your product lend themselves to dramatic demonstration, take full advantage of that. Show the before and after. Amaze your audience with instant results. Then reinforce the imagery with testimonials and live call-ins to support everything your TV audience has just seen.
5. Keep it live. It's not just TV … it's live TV! And that means there's the opportunity to be totally spontaneous. You can shift gears according to the pace of audience response. You can react to the numbers. And you can express real emotion. Yes, home shopping is America's only form of reality TV that offers live audience participation.
6. Make sure your presenter is a home-run hitter. The networks provide the set and the host, but you can dramatically enhance your sales potential by supplying the right presenter. Not only does your presenter have to believe in your product, he or she has to have genuine charisma. Let's face it, it's a rare individual who can connect with millions of viewers on an emotional level—and it has to be done live. Your presenter has to be able to think on her feet, even as the public's response to her pitch is being tallied in the form of orders right before her eyes. Don't be so quick to give one of your company's executives the job of going on the air for you. You may be better off hiring talent, even though it's an added expense. It will be well worth the investment if that pinch hitter can stand up there with the credibility and enthusiasm it takes to make the sale.
7. Say hello to your new partner. Home shopping networks are a marketer's best friend. More than that, they're your partners. They not only want you to succeed, they do everything they can to make it happen. Besides the free television exposure targeted to your prime prospect, they answer the phone for you, handle the fulfillment for you … even take care of customer service.
8. Work the home shopping price formula for all it's worth. The success of home shopping is based on cutting out the middleman and giving home shoppers the best price anywhere. However, you don't begin and end with the same low price. First you establish a base price. Of course, it has to beat all other offers. But this price is merely to establish perceived value. Once you've established this base price, make home shoppers an offer they can't resist by offering your product as "today's special." This is the lowest price at which your product ever will be available to the buying public, and you can use every "order now" motivator to get that point across. Show your audience how quickly you're running out of stock, and how fast they're running out of time to order. And when the clock does run out, steadily increase the price. Move it up to "preview pricing," then to the regular shopping network price. Because as you begin to raise the price, panic will set in and many of those consumers who were holding out will finally get up and place a call. After all, nobody wants to pay retail!
Ron Perlstein is executive producer and CEO of InfoWorx, a full-service DRTV agency in Boca Raton, Fla. He can be reached at ronp@infoworx.