Profile: Mike George '85
Web and TV, QVC customer is king, says CEO
start of each season can make or break a retailer's year.
But given the array of choices available to consumers how
can retailers ensure success? According to QVC's Mike
George, the answer
lies with the customer.
A graduate of Northwestern
and Kellogg, George is president and CEO of one of the world's
largest multimedia retailers. With annual revenue of more
than $7 billion, QVC meets its customers in the comfort of
their own homes to sell beauty and fashion accessories, jewelry
and more through its television programming. George calls
it "the greatest retail democracy out there."
customer votes on every product every second," he says. Items
are for sale "on air" during a set number of minutes, and
QVC gains instant feedback from the customer. Based on the
number of click-throughs online and phone calls an item receives,
QVC can instantly change what it is offering and how it is
communicating about products.
George says he will
often sit with the show's producer in the studio, or listen
to service calls to gain insight into customers' needs.
directly to consumers is the most energizing and challenging
marketing one can do, George says. "I'm amazed at how savvy
the consumer is and how high her expectations are. You have
to be at the top of your game every day, to delight her and
give her something that is fresh, innovative, surprising."
is another outlet to reach consumers, and George says it's
ranked among the top general merchant Web sites.
"Overall the Internet
is a huge positive for us, but there are some challenges,"
he says. Occasionally, online product reviews will be critical,
but George says this is an opportunity to reconnect with the
customer. "Maybe it's that we didn't communicate well how
to use the product on the air or on the Web, and it's obvious
that the customer's confused. It forces us to be more thoughtful
about how we do what we do."
says QVC's model lets the customer interact with the brand
in different ways, which affects both their lifestyle and
the product. "Some folks will watch the TV, pick up the phone,
and they have us on speed dial; others may do research, and
then order from the Web or buy something that is offered only
on our Web site. ... In some of our markets, you can order
directly from your remote control or cell phone, and customers
can get an email reminder when their favorite QVC program
is on the air. We use all these mediums to make it easier
for customers to interact with QVC," he says.
company takes a very personal approach in its business, which
is a part of its recent "iQdoU?" campaign. "There are lots
of people who buy from QVC, well over 35 million," George
says. "People don't always come out and talk about that, and
we joke about it and call it the Q. A lot of people Q, but
they don't all admit it."
company overcomes this in the diverse set of personalities
it has used over the years, including Heidi Klum, Paula Deen,
Bobbi Brown and Frederic Fekkai as its customers and vendors.
folks that shop QVC love us and have the highest repeat purchase
rate of any retailer," George says. But for every person like
that there are a few who haven't shopped and probably have
a stereotype of TV shopping, he adds. When non-customers find
out that QVC doesn't just sell Bobbi Brown cosmetics, but
that Brown herself will be on the program, explaining her
product and techniques for using it, he says their jaws drop.
"People are really shocked by that. They don't realize what
an additional value they get from QVC."