Behind the screen: On set at the Yesshop television shopping studio
According to the Yesshop team, television shopping is not to be confused with informercials. This distinction is key, as viewers fleeing from advertisements is part of what’s driving the South Korean-owned company’s growth.
“If you watch infomercials, they have very tight, fast cuts with a focus on the product, whereas we will gently take you through,” says Yesshop head of television production Phill Dodds.
Yesshop, New Zealand's only dedicated televsion shopping company, thrives by tapping into patterns of passive television consumption. It airs on Sky's channel 26 and Freeview channel 21. Dodds says its peak viewing times are between school hours, particularly after “drop-off and pick-up” times following 9am and 3pm.
The company’s audience skews towards women who are 30+, but men tend to drift towards it around 7pm, after the news: “Television has become a fireplace for us.”
Dodds believes consumers are bored with free-to-air television’s reality-show-heavy programming and often stumble upon Yesshop as they channel surf in search of something different. These male viewers stick with Yesshop until 11pm – another peak.
“We are still commercial but we don’t look and feel like a 30-second ad, so you start to watch and then we’ve got you.”
Yesshop’s best-selling products include a car-cleaning kit; a water-saving shower head; and a plug-in device which repels mice and rats.
The products are often presented by their makers, and the sales are timed like television shows. On the early December day The Register visited, Yesshop was preparing to sell meat at 8pm for 30 minutes. Earlier in the day it featured Dunninghams knives.
Yesshop’s point of difference against other retail channels is that it runs time-limited special offers. These are advertised on the company’s website, and customers can also order by phone. They are usually open for half an hour.
“We’ve trained the consumer to recognise that that is the only time you can buy,” Dodds says of the limited sale window.
Some vendors offer a better deal on Yesshop, Dodds says, as the platform has little potential to cannibalise sales through other channels – Yesshop also creates value through “bundling” different products together.
Yesshop occupies premises in Grafton which were built for Vidcom. It has a number of sets where the slots are filmed – there’s a kitchen, and several pedestal-style areas where furniture and other items can be displayed, but shows have also been filmed in the docking bay, the car park and the studio’s shower. Studio time and set design is funded by Yesshop and not the vendor.
Kiwi retailers aren’t all known for their showmanship, but Dodds says Yesshop doesn’t have a problem getting vendors to adapt to television. He likes their low-impact sales style: “Kiwis are blunt, they call a spade a spade.”
The best retailers are enthusiastic about their product, which translates into good television. Dodds lists the woman who sold the plug-in rodent repeller as a star presenter: “She just came across as passionate, which is beautiful.”
Reality television favourite Art Green has also had success selling his dietary supplements and powders on Yesshop. For those who lack his confidence, Dodds says he’ll be in their ear via microphone to cue them while they’re being filmed.
Dodds considers the set to be analogous to a shop window – it’s a retail space where the role of the presenter is to show shoppers how the product works.
“How many times have you gone to Noel Leeming and gone, ‘Show me how this works?’ [The sale assistant] hasn’t got time, he’s bored and he wants to move on to the next sale.”
Each item gets an enthusiastic workout during the live segments as presenters attempt to use them in the same way shoppers might at home.
Only one product has been broken while receiving this treatment - Dodds says nobody noticed. He says the piece of furniture broke because it had been incorrectly put together.
Supply and delivery is where it gets complicated. Yesshop’s research shows that the biggest negative for television shoppers is around deceitful pricing, particularly around deliveries. Using refrigerated parcels, Dodds claims, Yesshop can deliver even fresh meat as far as the Chathams for a flat fee.
If the vendor wishes to handle supply, that can also be arranged. Products imported through Yesshop’s South Korean connection with the Hyundai Home Shopping Mall are stored in an Ellerslie warehouse.
If a vendor wants to target a live Australian audience, Yesshop will soon be able to acquiese. The company this year signed a deal with Australian network Foxtel allowing it to launch a new shopping channel in Australia in early 2016.
Australia is a big opportunity for Kiwi retailers, Dodds says.
“We’re a small risk. We can get 30 minutes of their product on television that plays six times per day. If it’s a good product, we can do an hour. And it’s in Australian homes.”
Dodds feels television shopping has longevity – it’s the live aspect which appeals to consumers. He draws a comparison with the trend in reality TV.
“People love the TV. They’ll watch live news, live sports, and the only other live thing is shopping channels.”
He is confident that TV consumption will remain huge even as more and more consumers take to the internet: “They won’t get rid of it until it breaks."