HSN Inc. CEO Mindy Grossman respects Amazon.com, but she doesn't consider the online retailer a competitor - at least not directly.
“We're trying to create something very different,” Grossman says.
The latest move of differentiation has come in the form of mobile platforms.
Grossman is credited with transforming the St. Petersburg-based company (symbol: HSNI, recent price: $55.91) into a cool and successful business that sells hip items.
In 2006, when Grossman joined HSN, the company was stodgy, with no hip factor. She brought on new product lines from fashion icons, including Irish Apfel, and she featured celebrities, including Jessica Simpson, Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige, on the Home Shopping Network.
Grossman, No. 89 on Forbes magazine's 2013 list of the World's Most Powerful Women, is now focused on growing HSN's sales through the digital and mobile platforms, she recently told attendees of the Piper Jaffray annual Consumer Conference.
HSN launched a new digital platform in January that is already showing success.
In 2012, HSN had sales of $3.3 billion, with about $167 million from mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones.
In the first quarter, sales on mobile devices grew 78%, she says. Today, mobile sales account for about 10% of HSN's overall sales.
“We are seeing huge traction in the mobile space,” Grossman says.
“You wake up in the morning and what's the first thing you grab? Your phone,” she says. “You look at your emails, the weather and you're playing games.”
Hence HSN's interactive digital games for smartphones and tablets.
The company has spent about $50 million to improve its infrastructure in the past several years. In the third quarter, HSN expects to implement a new IBM computer system that tracks its customers' likes and dislikes so it can customize each shopper's experience. In addition to transactional data, the system will collect information from social media websites to personalize each shopper's experience.
And in a market where its customers are mostly higher income female homeowners who like to shop and share, tracking that engagement is key.
“The transaction is not what motivates her,” Grossman says of the typical HSN shopper. “It's the experience of being able to acquire products that inspire her.”