How tech is evolving the customer experience at HSN, QVC and Zulily

When Karen Etzkorn became CIO at HSN, she had already held senior technology positions at major retail brands including Ascena Retail Group, The Home Depot, Williams-Sonoma and Gap. Etzkorn knew retail, but even she was blown away by the entertainment and excitement of how HSN does it. “You realize when you sell 120,000 pillows in a 24-hour period that it’s a little different,” Etzkorn says.

Etzkorn is now Chief Information Officer for Qurate Retail Group, the parent organization for brands such as HSN, QVC and Zulily, with more than 23 million customers and $14 billion in annual revenue across all its brands. Earlier this year, Etzkorn sat down with the Retail Gets Real podcast team to talk about the technology that fuels Qurate’s innovative brands, and how getting more women in technology careers depends on getting more girls interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in school.

New technology plays a critical role in evolving the retail experience, and brands like HSN and QVC have unique opportunities to serve their loyal customer base. Etzkorn pointed to artificial intelligence, machine learning and conversational commerce as the top technologies that are beginning to reshape retail today.

As Zulily’s Bindu Thota shared in a previous episode of Retail Gets Real, AI and machine learning are empowering the brands to better understand how customers shop on the site and deliver every customer a personalized experience based on their shopping patterns and behaviors. Etzkorn says customers are expecting these personalized, differentiated experiences, and Qurate is learning from Zulily and evolving the customer experience throughout QVC and HSN.

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HSN is also piloting a new program to explore how the growing use of virtual assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, can be used to create new shopping experiences. Customers can ask Alexa what’s on HSN right now or what today’s special is, and then Alexa can answer or display the TV show through an Amazon Echo. As the tech develops, users will also be able to buy from that conversation with the virtual assistant.

Listen to the episode to learn more about how Qurate is leveraging new technology to meet customer demands and hear Etzkorn’s perspective on how to encourage girls to become interested in technology careers.

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