Evine: Former HSN CEO Takes On The Bigs, Launches Interactive Shopping Platform For Women

For over a decade, if you were to say “home shopping,” you were likely referring to a shopping experience that happened on your TV set — and over the phone. After launching in the ’80s, it wasn’t long before broadcast networks like QVC and The Home Shopping Network (HSN) became synonymous with “home shopping.” Of course, the Web and eCommerce changed all that. Today, Amazon represents home shopping, and QVC and HSN have both gone on to launch and develop big online businesses. HSN, for example, does 35 percent of its sales on the Web, which alone represents a multi-billion dollar business.

As the CEO of HSN in the late ’90s and early ’00s, Mark Bozek oversaw the launch of HSN.com as well the network’s expansion overseas. Having served both as HSN’s CEO and as VP of Broadcasting at QVC, Bozek knows the business, and its target customer, well. So, Bozek and co-founder Russell Nuce are taking on the bigs with Evine, a new, web-only shopping platform that launches today.

For those unfamiliar, both QVC and HSN entice their audience by offering exclusive, one-time-only-type products and merchandise. Products are often sold at specific times, for limited durations. In a sense, QVC and HSN are the precursors of the flash sales model now employed by Gilt and so many others. As Bozek sees it, there’s an opportunity to bring the same appeal of exclusivity and discounting that’s inherent to flash sales to the same demographic that is so loyal to QVC and HSN.

Of course, the problem, Bozek says, is that the Web doesn’t really have a platform that caters to this customer — which is, by and large female and over the age of 35 — in a way that’s engaging, or that focuses on creating a viable social shopping experience, especially online. That’s why Evine aims to offer value-driven merchandise in fashion, beauty, accessories, fitness, and food, for women over the age of 35 through a platform that offers a variety of shopping-centric entertainment.

The goal is to not just give women a platform where they can shop, but where they can interact and share content and merchandise with friends. Evine plans to offer both live, streaming video content as well recorded video programs, which will be hosted by former QVC personalities, for example. Bozek says that Evine also wants to create this sticky experience by integrating games, but as of now, it remains unclear whether the site will do that with existing games, or focus on social, Facebook-hosted gaming experiences, or simply offer a gamified viewing and interactive experience.

The entertainment content will initially be created by the Evine team, with plans to eventually open the platform up to user-generated content — all with the goal of adding depth to the shopping so that it’s not just about coupon clipping and products, but engaging and interactive. Bozek says that he wants Evine to be appealing beyond those times when its users are in the mood to shop.

What’s more, Bozek sees the opportunity for much higher margins in the online-only model. While QVC and HSN are both wildly profitable businesses, they come with the costs of having to operate expensive television studios and call centers. Evine not only does away with those significant costs, but Bozek believes, with the right product mix, it can attract a large, scalable customer base without having to pay to acquire those customers.

He hopes that this will be Evine’s valuable differentiator with flash sales and subscription-based models that focus on acquiring customers, and then later have to figure out how to monetize them. By creating entertainment content and brands that have long-term value, the CEO thinks that Evine can have high margins right from the start. And with cosmetics and ingestibles (vitamins, etc.) coming with margins between 35 to 65 percent, Bozek says, there’s plenty of opportunity for profitability.

Of course, Evine will need scale to get there, so he has recruited his co-founder Russel Nuce, former QVC merchant and current President of its Accessories Council, Karen Giberson, as well as former QVC host, Kathy Levine. The startup’s advisors include Thom Beers of Original Productions, Kim Caccavo of Steelpoint Capital, Jim McCann of 1800Flowers, Greg Renker of Guthy Renker, Joan Solotar of the Blackstone Group, and Fred Siegel of Fred Siegel Partners. Evine has also raised $500K in seed financing from these investors, and others, to get the platform off the ground. In the coming months, the team will begin raising its series A.

Leveraging new brands with personalities, whether they’re famous or not, Evine is setting out to create a fun, interactive customer experience that engages customers in realtime to make the shopping experience that much more enjoyable. Of course, there are a lot of elements already in place that could make Evine a big business, but it’s all about execution. And it also remains to be seen whether an older customer base is ready to spend more time online than it is offline, or in front of the TV.

The site, which is designed by Leane Brenes, launches to the public today, along with a complementary “coming attractions” platform on Facebook, which invites members to join for free and learn more about what brands Evine will offer beginning this summer.

For more, find Evine at home here.