Defines New Role At QVC
Beauty Fashion met with Claudia Lucas recently to learn about her new role as Director of Beauty Merchandising at QVC, one of the world’s largest multi-media retailers. Ms. Lucas has formerly served in merchandising leadership positions at leading retailers both in the UK and the US.
Beauty Fashion: In transitioning from a bricks-and-mortar retailer to TV
shopping, what are the differences? Similarities?
Claudia Lucas: In bricks-and-mortar retail, you tend to look at the full assortment of the brand and how you deliver it in-store. When you are in multimedia retailing either in television or online, it’s much more of an edited process. You look at item by item, one at a time.
QVC doesn’t typically present single products. We tend to look at creating special configurations or pairing of products together, because we have the ability to tell the story and take [the customer] from one step to the next. That is the biggest difference.
The similarity is that you are still a retailer. You are still selling a product, but doing it through a different medium and focusing on telling the story. It brings the credibility of the brand to the customer and also provides education [about products].
BF: What beauty categories are particularly effective on TV? What products might be more problematic, such as fragrance?
CL: With skincare, we are able to really demonstrate the benefits of the products, the ingredients and what the product will deliver. With color cosmetics and hair care, particularly styling products, it’s all about how to get the same effects at home.
There is this perception that it is difficult for us to sell fragrance, and I can tell you that is not true. We have a wonderful and very robust fragrance business, particularly with Philosophy. It goes back to storytelling and the credibility behind the product and the brand. It is how we are able to articulate on air and online what the customer can’t personally experience. I use Philosophy’s Founder, Cristina Carlino, as an example of how she was able to tell a great story because it came from her heart.
We have been able to have success across all beauty categories. There is nothing that we can’t do.
BF: What do you see as the benefits of engaging the customer on TV?
CL: Clearly the benefit is our ability to educate the customer on the products, to tell her about what they are going to do and deliver to her. We tell her how to use it and the results she can expect.
For example, with color, we can tell her what the product is; demonstrate how to use it and how the colors will look on a certain skin tone. This sets up a high level of confidence when the customer gets the item at home.
There is also entertainment involved. I have coined the word, ‘edutainment,’ which is that you are entertaining and educating at the same time. There is a beautiful chemistry between those two aspects. What makes an on-air presentation truly successful is that you are educating and entertaining the customer at the same time.
BF: How would you define the current beauty product mix offered on QVC?
CL: QVC’s current product mix runs across all beauty categories. We have a competitive skincare business. We also have a robust color cosmetic business and a very good hair care business as well. An expanding area for us right now is hard goods—the devices. This runs the gamut from hair tools and a wide assortment of at-home skincare devices coming through FDA [approval]. These are high-priced, investment purchases, and we’re able to articulate very well through TV on how to effectively use these devices.
When Clarisonic came to QVC, it kicked off the importance of this new category. This beauty tool delivered exceptional results. Initially, we were a little nervous about whether a cleansing brush at this price point would resonate with the customers, but they immediately jumped on it.
Three years later, we still have a wonderful business with Clarisonic. It’s led the way to getting the consumer to understand and buy into some of these at-home devices that they have been experiencing in spas and medi-spas.
BF: What beauty categories do you want to expand?
CL: The biggest category that we want to expand is the device business. A lot of high-profile, sophisticated devices coming down the pike for 2012 had to get FDA clearance and approval, but that took a lot longer than anyone anticipated. However, with that kind of clearance, we can now take these devices to a new level because we are able to make substantiated claims about them, their efficacy and what they will do.
Aside from categories per se, it’s more about how we can continue to present our assortment. We are now focusing on the concept of “QVC everywhere.” You don’t have to be at home watching TV to buy a beauty product from QVC. With our online business and our mobile app business, you can take QVC anywhere with you. My team wants to make QVC a destination to shop everywhere, not just at home in front of a television.
BF: Will you keep a prestige level of cosmetics and fragrance in your beauty assortment, or do you want to explore some brands from mass?
CL: QVC made the decision to work and play in the prestige area. As such, we have always continued to occupy that space as well as the products and brands represented there. Right now, we have no plans to get into mass brands and products. It’s not because we don’t believe in the efficacy of these brands. We just want to keep a specific message for the customer.
BF: Are you planning to offer some lines and/or products that are exclusive to QVC?
CL: “Exclusivity at QVC” is an important tool that we use for both exclusive launches within brands and exclusive brands. We understand its value and when it works best for us.
We strive to choose products that resonate with the customer. Sometimes it helps us if the brand has some additional distribution. Or, we might have an exclusive brand.
If a product is very meaningful to our customer, we will ask for an exclusive, but it’s not a requirement for a vendor to have exclusive offers on QVC. We might have a brand that is completely exclusive to us or an exclusive franchise within a brand.
BF: Will celebrity brands be an important part of the QVC mix?
CL: We haven’t focused on celebrity brands as aggressively as some of our other areas at QVC. We will always consider it where it feels authentic, where it feels real and where it feels relevant.
The best way we do celebrity is through people that service the celebrity community—Makeup Artists, Hairstylists, Dermatologists and Plastic Surgeons, which in today’s reality, are celebrities themselves. Their celebrity status is more about the fact that they are servicing [celebrities]. We have a lot of professionals who service real A-list celebrities. Certainly they are very active within the celebrity
BF: What is your vision for growing the beauty department at QVC?
CL: I want to continue to support the on-air presentations by looking for new opportunities and new formats for programming and ways to entertain the customer. That can be by bringing in more status shows such as the destination show we have called “Friday Night Beauty.” It is a show where we focus on what we consider new, innovative and interesting products.
We recently did a show where Mally Roncal and Chaz Dean did a whole spin on makeup and hair. We tied in with Fashion Week and participate in Red Carpet events as well as other projects that can really add punch to what we do. We are looking at how we leverage these activities with our online and mobile applications.
For the past two years, QVC has broadcasted, “Buzz On The Red Carpet—Live From LA” in February during award season. It is a good opportunity for us to really get behind the whole idea of how our celebrity professionals get the celebrities ready for the Red Carpet.
BF: Will QVC’s beauty offerings become even more important as QVC expands internationally?
CL: QVC currently operates in the US, Germany, UK, Japan and, most recently, Italy, which launched in October 2010. QVC recognizes the importance and relevance of having beauty in the assortment in every global market. In the UK and Germany, our business is very robust. The approach QVC takes is still very much market by market and what works for the specific
consumer in each specific location.
BF: What do you see as QVC’s potential going forward?
CL: We want people’s perception of QVC to be more than just [a consumer] sitting in front of a TV. When you look at digital electronic retailing, we are poised to exploit that in a much bigger way.
At QVC, we are so much more than TV, which is still a very important part of what we do. At the same time, we can really be active and productive in the outer digital space through online media and through mobile applications. We have mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android, and even a dedicated beauty app.
We are incredibly active in the social media space. We talk about QVC everywhere. The only thing we don’t have is stores, but we cover every other aspect of retail.