I have always been fascinated by QVC and Home Shopping Network (HSN), and how effective they are in moving product and reshaping inventory. It is no surprise that those two are central to one of my favorite movies, Joy, which is about self-made entrepreneur Joy Mangano.
In recent times, when everyone was chasing Facebook elixir, QVC unlocked some serious magic for Madison Reed (a True portfolio company) started by Amy Errett and Ring, another portfolio company started by Jamie Siminoff, which was acquired by Amazon.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I often think about what happens to QVC in the time beyond cord-cutting and when the smartphone generation grows up, ignoring the big screen, and instead of growing up glued to the vertical (not horizontal) rectangles of glass? Who will replace them? Do they have the brand cachet to catch on with the millennial and GenZ?
So when Instagram launched IGTV, a thought crossed my mind: does IGTV become QVC 2.0? I asked my Twitter and Instagram community what they thought? Of the 311 votes cast, 44 percent said yes, that it might be a likely outcome. On Instagram, 68 percent thought it might be the case as well. I know the polling sample size is too small and it is biased towards folks who are into photography or technology and are not representative of the real world. So I will ignore the overall numbers but will take a directional cue from the trends.
I have my reasons to be bullish about IGTV as QVC 2.0. When you drill down to what is QVC (which also owns HSN]), they are primarily an engaging and addictive way to move inventory. QVC allows brands to tell their story, and use the dopamine effect to move product. QVC’s brilliance in the age of cable was that it marketed “benefits” and not features and thus helped create a desire and need for things that perhaps were not required.
IGTV has some of those qualities. Instagram is one of those services that we use when sitting in the subway car, waiting in line for coffee, or only to kill time. At one time it was about photography, but now it is about visual stimulation and micro-dosing on dopamine. The growing presence of brands, brand advertising and an incredible number of influencers shilling everything from wonky energy drinks to fancy Jaguars has turned Instagram into a marketing executive’s wet dream. No wonder the service is so full of advertising for products and things. A whole new economy of Instagram-first brands has emerged and leveraged its billion-strong community to build their customer bases. Some like luggage maker Away, have been more successful than others, thanks to their visual storytelling.
Enter IGTV. It now allows you, me and every brand (and influencer) to tell their story in a video that can be as long as an hour. To some this might seem like an attack on YouTube — it is — but in reality, it is a chance to create a brand new channel for mobile commerce. The IGTV as it is required you to produce a video and upload it to the service, unlike original Instagram which has camera and editing capabilities. IGTV is view only. So to make engaging content in IGTV vertical rectangle format, you need to spend some time to record, edit and produce the videos. I would argue, this isn’t as much for amateurs as it is for brands. And during the first few days of IGTV, the most engaging content has come from brands.
For instance, the 12-minute clip of the latest Louis Vuitton fashion show featuring Virgil Abloh was a perfect advertorial and will create more hype around the collection than anything fashion writers have to say. Now imagine such creative storytelling from other brands.
Same goes for those hugely popular unboxing videos. Those are perfect for IGTV. Some startups such as Unboxed and MikMax tried to capitalize on the unboxing trend, but they don’t have the reach of Instagram. Unboxing videos, which are no longer limited to technology products, are gaining in popularity because they allow buyers to actually look at the products closely and then make a decision.
Given that commerce is already such a big part of Instagram, the infrastructure is already in place to roll out new offerings. Just swipe right to buy the products, you start to see why I think of it as QVC 2.0. Instead (or, perhaps in-addition) to advertising, Instagram could take referral revenues. Like QVC, purchasing action could be frictionless. The dopamine effect is even stronger, and more importantly, unlike QVC and the late night shopping binges, you could waste your money while waiting in line for your Matcha.
Of course, I might be entirely wrong — and projecting my ideas on a service, which is just getting started. About 33 percent of those who took my poll argued that IGTV isn’t going anywhere. Either way, it is something worth watching.