8 Secrets About Shopping on QVC You Need to Know, According to Experts
Retail pros share their top ways to stream content, save money, and more.
In 1985, the Home Shopping Network (HSN) became the first nationwide shopping network. The following year, entrepreneur Joseph Segel (who had previously founded the Franklin Mint), saw an HSN video and "thought it rather primitive," The New York Times recounted in his 2019 obituary. "He was sure he could create a better, more professional shopping experience." And thus, on Nov. 24, 1986, QVC, which stands for Quality Value Convenience, aired its first broadcast, selling "an $11.49 shower radio," according to the Times.
In 2017, QVC's parent company acquired HSN, and today both networks are going strong as part of Qurate Retail Group, which also owns Zulily and four other retail brands. But there are now many more ins and outs with QVC than just picking up the phone to place an order. To find out more, we spoke with retail experts about the company. Keep reading to discover the secrets about shopping on QVC you need to know.
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You no longer have to watch QVC on TV.
When QVC first came on television, there was no internet (and definitely no Amazon). When viewers saw something they wanted to buy, they had a limited time to write down the product number and call the phone number. If you didn't get to it in time, it would disappear from the broadcast.
Today, things are much simpler thanks to the QVC website, where you can browse items by category, see "Today's Special Value" sale item, and filter by the show hosts.
"And if you still enjoy watching the TV channel, the QVC website has a section on its front page for items that were recently on-air, which can help you track down products you may be looking for," says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. "This is much better than having to watch the channel over and over waiting for something you liked to show up again."
There are also streaming options now.
Some people find the broadcasts entertaining, informative, and even relaxing. For these shoppers, there are three separate channels—QVC, QVC2, and QVC3.
"There are also live streams where you can chat with friends and shop as you watch along, and QVC+ that shows free streaming exclusives—that is, you can watch these streams without having to sign into a cable provider or anything like that," explains Ramhold. "You can simply watch on your desktop or tablet and shop for the products you want."
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Pay close attention to proprietary brands.
"Shopping networks all carry proprietary product lines," Darren Bogus, content editor at fellow home shopping channel Shop LC, tells Best Life. He explains that this tactic plays to the loyalty that shoppers may have toward certain brands. At QVC, some of these proprietary brands include Denim & Co., Breezies, and Northern Nights.
This same logic pertains to QVC's many celebrity collections, with those from reality TV stars like Lisa Rinna and RuPaul to lifestyle gurus like Martha Stewart and the Scott brothers to actors like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jamie Foxx.
There are also lots of name brands.
"Years ago, you might only recognize a couple of brands or the bulk may have been brands you couldn't find anywhere but QVC," says Ramhold.
But now, you can find deals on brand names like Le Creuset, Apple, iRobot, and Vince Camuto. "Even if you trusted their featured brands and products right from the start, these big names lend even more credibility to the shopping site and provide shoppers with confidence," Ramhold notes.
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There's a reason products are more generic.
Historically, QVC has reached an older demographic. Seniors may not have been able to get out to the store and used the service to shop for gifts for their extended family. For this reason, the company focuses on products that can be utilized by all ages and genders, says Jeanel Alvarado, retail expert at RETAILBOSS.
"For example, it would be a smarter business decision for a beauty brand to sell face masks that can be used by any age group … a mom with two daughters can purchase face masks for all those in the household (including hubby) but also take advantage of the limited-sales price," Alvarado explains, "[as] opposed to the brand selling a product such as anti-wrinkle neck cream that is targeted to a very specific age range."
You can save big by shopping "as-is" items.
If you live in Frazer, Pennsylvania, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, or Brandon, Florida, you can shop at one of QVC's brick-and-mortar outlet stores that sell "limited quantities of brand-name items, end-of-season goods, customer returns, discontinued stock, and repackaged & on-air display merchandise," according to the company.
For everyone in the rest of the country, head to the "as-is" section of the website, where you can shop "returns, samples, discontinued items, and on-air displays" for hefty discounts.
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There's psychology behind the broadcasts.
In a 2021 interview with Cowen Insights, Qurate Retail Group's then-president and CEO Mike George said, "We like to think about ourselves as the first influencer model because in the original QVC model, our hosts, the amazing guests and personalities that would come on air from celebrities to entrepreneurs, to inventors, these were influencers."
Today, whether it's an actual social media influencer, a celebrity, or one of QVC's in-house hosts, the viewer experience is successful because it creates "parasocial relationships," or those that speak to the subconscious in the way actual friendships do, according to a 2010 article in The Atlantic.
The journalist, who toured QVC's headquarters (yes, you can pay $10 to do this), notes that sets are made to look like cozy rooms in your house, and the hosts are "peppy people" who "tell a story—a story about the viewer, and the product's place in her life." Fostering this friend-like dynamic is also the reason a host is usually on air with a co-host or product spokesperson: It makes viewers feel like they're part of the conversation.
Be careful if you're shopping on April 1st.
@qvc Step aside, deli counter! This is a bologna gadget you'll actually want to *meat* 🥪 #bologna#lunchmeat#deli#meatslicer#sandwich#slicer#kitchenhacks ♬ original sound – QVC
QVC's marketing tactics are so good that they've been known to convince viewers to purchase things they don't actually need. But if you find yourself drawn to something totally out-there like a deli meat-folding apparatus, double-check that it's not April Fool's Day.
On April 1, 2022, QVC posted a video on social media that advertised the "bologna folder." It went viral on TikTok, with quite elaborately staged marketing.