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08-10-12 | Posted by

TV shopping for a long time was a staple of comedy sketch writers with shaky walls and product offers that could only be described as cut rate.

Not anymore. During the past several years, QVC and HSN, not to mention ShopNBC, have gone from strength to strength. But more specifically, the combination of TV and beauty has become very successful: in the US it is a $1.2 billion business and up 5.3% from 2009. Brands on QVC, for example, include Bobbi Brown, Nicky Kinnaird from SpaceNK—to whom we will return later—Bareminerals, Perricone MD, Clarisonic, Ojon, philosophy, Laura Geller and Smashbox to name a few. HSN offers Lancôme, Benefit and Elizabeth Arden and ShopNBC offers Rodial, ThisWorks and Nuxe.

In the UK, strong cosmetics sales on television led to the creation of QVC Beauty in 2010, a special beauty channel that features Eve Lom products, Elemis, Lulu, Liz Earle and L’Artisan Parfumier.

But why has beauty become one of the shopping channels’ most successful arenas?

Firstly, the buyers for the US TV shopping networks changed their strategy, from hoping to establish obscure brands, to inviting some of the worlds most established beauty gurus into their studios: for example makeup artist and entrepreneur Bobbi Brown regularly sells her makeup on QVC—and regularly sells out. Nicky Kinnaird, the founder of SpaceNK, demonstrates her favorite products from her stores on QVC in the US. This has become a resounding success as she can cherry pick from dozens of ranges, bringing variety to each of her shows. The customer response has been overwhelming.

The demographic of the customer has changed as well; these stations air nationwide, including the middle of the country, but research has found that the modern customer is very brand savvy and resides in the cities where many of these brands are most accessible. “Our largest markets are New York, LA and Chicago,” said US CEO of HSN Mindy Grossman. “When I tell people that, it really takes them aback.” Another top achievement: HSN won the FiFi Fragrance Sales Breakthrough award last year, selling 60,000 bottles of Mary J. Blige’s launch scent  to folks who hadn’t even smelled the fragrance; which begs the question, when you can’t touch, smell or try a product yourself, why does beauty on television sell?

In a beauty retail store, the sales advisor can demonstrate the product, showing the customer how to get the best out of it, such as how to use one product in multiple ways. The QVC approach is to demonstrate products on different women, handpicked for their different looks. It’s an educational process and without the hard sell. And don’t forget that the beauty hall intimidates many women. They worry whether they will like the transformation; after all, how many people have been made-over only to resemble a drag queen and then feel compelled to buy most of the products? I know that in the past, I have.

Online is great for repeat purchasing—but due to the shear volume sold by the TV networks, online cannot as yet compete with TV in one respect: offering fabulous bargains. QVC’s legendary Today’s Special Value—or TSV for the viewers in the know—offers some amazing beauty bargains too—and best of all, everything can be returned. Another popular QVC innovation has been Easy Pay, or FlexPay on HSN, which means that instead of an outlay of cash straight away—or putting the purchase on a credit card—customers can pay in roughly 3 payments over several months.

Big names, bargains, decent return policy and no money up front?  That sounds to us like a good reason to switch on the television.

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