People like online shopping, and they like watching Web video. They also like playing casual Internet games. HSN.com, the main Web site for the HSN cable/ online shopping network, already has the first two features on its Web site. And yesterday the site rolled out the third: HSN Arcade, a collection of 25 interactive games designed to increase visitors’ time on site and to get them talking about the channel with their social graph.
The new game portal, accessed from the main site, offers 25 games to start with. Most are customized versions of standard casual Web games such as blackjack, Sudoku and Mah Jongg. The games take up about two thirds of the screen, while the right side of the screen is given to a live HD stream of current HSN TV programming in a viewer that can be expanded to full-screen size. Players at the site can also shop a number of featured HSN items, including a spotlighted daily special and a revolving gallery of the last 15 items aired in the broadcast.
At least two of the available games are particularly closely integrated with the HSN brand. A game called “Lights! Camera! Subtraction!” puts up two photos of one of HSN’s TV hosts demonstrating a product with some of the details slightly altered, and players have to list the differences between the pictures, with the help of some hints and online tools. In the other, a daily jigsaw scrambles a photo of the day’s featured product, and the ten players each day who assemble the picture in the fastest time will receive either that product as a prize or a gift card.
The Deal of the Day special feature is one of HSN’s most effective broadcast draws, with audience members staying glued to the channel each evening at midnight to see the product that will be featured for the next 24 hours. “Now in addition we’ll reveal the Deal of the Day each midnight in our daily jigsaw puzzle,” said Jill Braff, executive vice president for digital commerce at HSN.com. “And at 10 o’clock the following evening we’ll announce the names of the 10 winners who completed the puzzle the fastest.
“So it’s not just a Web experience. It’s tying back into viewership and using our digital channel to drive people back to our TV channel—even if they’re now watching that broadcast on their tablet or their Web browser. We’re really marrying commerce and content.”
“The idea here is to combine the things people like to do on the Web,” she said. “We realize that they come to our site to shop , but gaming and sharing via Facebook are two very big activities. So we’re combining all of those into one screen to make it more fun and engaging. Now when people come to HSN.com, they don’t have to just come, shop and leave; they can watch the show, play games and shop as well.”
Right now players can register at the HSN Arcade and compete to earn virtual “tickets.” With enough tickets, they can trade them in for badges that can be shared on their social sites; weekly high scores in some of the games also earn a badge.
The immediate benefit to HSN.com is that users need to register at the site to amass those virtual tickets. “Normally at HSN.com, you only had to register if you wanted to buy something,” Braff said. “Now we can attract user before they buy, which helps us reach people higher up in the sales funnel.” Down the road, HSN is considering ways to make those tickets redeemable for actual prizes in a kind of loyalty program.
HSN is running leader boards both for the individual games and for Arcade participation as a whole, and as players conclude a game they’re asked if they wish to share their score with their Facebook page, giving the games initiative some viral potential.
“If I choose to publish that score in my news feed and share it with my friends, that means that HSN is now able to reach people who might not be thinking of us from a commerce point of view,” Braff said. “They’ll come to the site, play games for free, and perhaps decide to buy that cool little dress that’s being shown while they play.”
HSN Arcade, which was developed in conjunction with game developer Arkadium, will expand its roster of games once the network has had a chance to see which games get the most traction with visitors. The plan is to add some capabilities to let players compete in real time with HSN’s celebrity host and guests.
Arkadium, which has also built online game campaigns for other networks such as Lifetime and Discovery, was a good choice to partner on HSN Arcade because they were able to marry their own gaming platform with the specific tech demands of HSN.com. “They could marry their solution to what is unique about HSN, which is live programming and the myriad of products we offer, which makes us different from a client like Lifetime,” Braff said.
Over the next few months, HSN will primarily monitor the engagement players have with the Arcade portal in terms of game plays, return frequency and time spent on site. But the network will also be watching to see if adding games to the site has a perceptible impact on sales conversions.
Right now HSN’s cable channel is available in 96 million U.S. households. For first quarter 2011, the most recent available, HSN reported that about 40% of total sales came through its Web site. But online sales, which amounted to $289.6 million for the quarter, increased 12.7% year over year, compared to only 6% growth in total quarterly sales of $724 million.
HSN Is Everywhere She Wants to Be