How HSN Launched 450+ App Messaging Campaigns in One Year

Founded in 1982 in St. Petersburg, Florida, HSN has evolved from a television shopping network into a multichannel shopping destination for customers across the nation. One of these channels is an iOS mobile app that gives on-the-go shoppers the opportunity to purchase items from wherever they are.

Sarah Gorman, Director, Retention Marketing at HSN, leads the marketing initiatives responsible for making the company’s mobile app a success. In fact, during her first year at HSN, she and another marketing specialist, Tiffany Castanho, established onboarding and retention strategies that included sending out 450+ app messaging campaigns. Their mobile engagement platform, Localytics, helped them accomplish this.

To successfully implement this platform and start creating winning campaigns, they planned and executed a strategy that included five key components:

  1. Integration: Working alongside consultants from their mobile engagement platform to integrate HSN’s data with the new platform.
  2. Foundation & planning: Establishing KPIs and deciding how to measure each one.
  3. Staffing & optimizing for growth: Hiring two mobile marketers (including Sarah) and attracting customers to the new HSN app.
  4. Engagement & retention: Creating messaging campaigns that will help engage and retain customers.
  5. Measuring success: Using incrementality to measure lift. (Which messaging campaigns worked and which didn’t?)


From day one, HSN had consultants from its mobile engagement platform on-site to give step-by-step instruction for integrating the platform with the data HSN already had.

Many of the teams at HSN, including product management, digital systems, and marketing had to collaborate to prepare for integration. It was essential that they all work closely together to get the job done.

On November 18, 2016, HSN launched its SDK and was ready to begin defining KPIs that would lead the company to a successful first year in mobile.

Foundation & planning

Before HSN could jump right in and begin establishing app messaging campaigns, KPIs needed to be set in place so the team had a better understanding of what they wanted to achieve by the end of year one.

Sarah broke the KPIs down into easy-to-remember terms:

  • Activate: educate people about the app’s value and inspire downloads
  • Nurture: help users navigate the app and find value in it
  • Monetize: get users to buy products from the app
  • Retain: get past buyers to buy more, and continue nurturing all users

Next, HSN needed to determine how to measure each one of these strategies. Some of these measurements included session length, session usage, and sign-in rates. They also determined what the key behaviors and attributes were that they wished to target as messaging campaigns were created.

Another crucial step during the foundation stage was to get everyone comfortable with the platform’s messaging dashboard (example here) as this was something brand new to the company and Sarah wanted everyone to feel ready to use it.

Before Sarah and her team could began initiating messaging campaigns, a detailed plan needed to be set in place to support the key strategies and KPIs.

Sarah designed a descriptive spreadsheet that would be able to track all components of each message in a campaign (what they said, word count, if it included deep linking, when the message was sent, etc). She also designed the plan to append with response and revenue data for campaign optimization.

In addition to this, Sarah and her team conducted A/B testing to get a better understanding of which types of messages perform better and produce a higher retention rate. A QA process was also created to ensure that every message was free of any mistakes and, by the end of the year, over 450 messages were deployed flawlessly.

Staffing for success

At the beginning of the onboarding process with their consultants, Sarah quickly realized that she would not be able to do everything on her own. Mobile is still a relatively new concept and extremely new to HSN, so she needed to hire someone that would be eager to learn the ins and outs of mobile. Defining the roles needed was crucial since the mobile marketers would be tasked with learning the platform.

Currently, HSN has two mobile marketers: Sarah, the senior manager of email and mobile, and Tiffany, the assistant marketing manager for mobile. Once Tiffany was brought on shortly after Sarah started working with HSN, they accomplished great things with the HSN app in a short period of time...

Optimizing for growth, engagement, and retention

For HSN to attract customers to their brand new mobile app, it was important to create an app-only experience that customers couldn’t get from the HSN website or television programming. To do this from the start, Sarah and her team created a first ever app-only coupon to help attract customers to the mobile app. The offer was $10 off a user's first purchase in the app. 


HSN has always had strong roots in the cable & television space, but now it was necessary to get their most loyal customers to download the HSN app.

Sarah and Tiffany began by targeting customers via email and linked them to app-only landing pages and app-only experiences—things they couldn’t get unless they downloaded the app.

HSN has both an iPhone app and Android app that is geared up to deliver the best shopping experiences, inclusive of inbox messages and push notifications to users.

Activating & nurturing new users

Even for the people who are long time customers of HSN, every person that downloads the HSN app is a new user, and it is essential that those users are taken care of from the start.

One of the easiest ways of doing this is to drive each user to allow push notifications. If these notifications are turned off inside the app, then things can easily come to a standstill between the customer and marketer. Once push notifications are turned on, users will start receiving personalized messages that HSN creates using their mobile engagement platform.

Engagement strategies

HSN proved early on that inbox messaging works. Depending on the duration of the promotion, almost all push notifications are housed in the app inbox for a period of time, reinforcing the most important messages of the day. 


In this example, the user receives a Valentine’s Day in-app message supporting the inbox message. 

"We implemented some additional tagging around our inbox messages to quantify if they were helpful and we discovered that people who clicked on an inbox message were five times more likely to make a purchase in the app."
Retention strategies

To avoid churn in the HSN app, it’s crucial that users are engaged long enough so they don’t stop using the app or completely uninstall it. Everyone downloads apps, but not all users stay long enough to see the benefits. HSN wanted to make sure users saw the multiple advantages of using their app in particular.

To do this, Sarah and her team began by sending a generic message such as “Hey, we missed you!” to inactive users. Then they added first name personalization to each message. By doing this, HSN saw a 10% increase in seven-day retention. By adding users’ product preferences along with their name, they saw a 14% increase in seven-day retention.

Measuring success

To begin measuring the KPIs that HSN established from the start, Sarah and her team needed to aggregate the data from all of their individual campaigns. HSN worked with its mobile engagement platform to create a custom report that aggregates all of the campaign data over the span of the last 60 days and gets sent to the HSN team each week.

With this data gathered, the team moves on to incrementality, the measure of the lift that advertising spend provides to the conversion rate. HSN defines incrementality as “would she (the customer) have performed that behavior if we didn’t send that message?”

The answer to this question can be found by just a standard test & control cell, but HSN believes they need to go a bit further to guarantee that they are not just shifting attributions from one channel to the other. By using incrementality, it is easy for HSN to determine if certain app messaging campaigns are worth it in the long haul.

To begin calculating, HSN looked at audience size, responders, and net sales. Then they looked at data across their test cell and control cell to determine whether or not their messaging campaigns were actually impacting the bottom line.

In her presentation at ENGAGE 2017, Sarah gave two examples of incrementality, one showing a negative lift (meaning they would have gotten more responders if they hadn’t sent the message) and the other example showing a positive lift. This is how HSN proves incrementality without simply shifting attribution from one channel to the next.

Sarah talks about incrementality at 22:10 in the video.

Wrap up

Between November 2016 and today, Sarah and her team proved that with enough structure and planning, integrating a mobile engagement platform doesn’t need to be intimidating. HSN has now delivered over 450 messaging campaigns.

In the next few years, Sarah hopes to see even greater success with the HSN app and feels confident that the partnership between HSN and Localytics will continue to flourish.