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With Walmart's help, HP tries a QVC-style live pitch

The computer maker takes a page out of the playbooks of home shopping networks, and live streams a product demo on Walmart's Web site.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
3 min read
Hewlett-Packard spokeswoman Christine Kane on the set of QVC before an HP showcase. Facebook/Christine4HP

Hewlett-Packard's latest ploy to get consumers looking its way: Take over a Walmart.com product page with a home shopping network-like live video presentation of its Chromebook 14.

But HP is going beyond pale imitation; hosting the live-streaming demo is company pitch-woman Christine Kane, the prototypical home shopping network-style host with an equal mix of bubbly enthusiasm and keen product knowledge, and who happens to be a regular guest on QVC. She'll be touting the Chromebook 14 to anyone who happens on Walmart's site on Tuesday or Wednesday.

HP could use a little QVC magic. The company, like most of its peers in the PC industry, is facing declining sales of PCs as consumers gravitate to hotter devices such as tablets and smartphones. As such, these companies are eager to explore new attempts to spark some excitement and connect with consumers.

Video, meanwhile, has quickly become a major way for retailers to appeal to shoppers online, not just through the growing amount of video advertising placed on sites but also through product videos, a trend that online retailers, like Amazon, have done a good job of exploiting. HP and Walmart's experiment with a live video show is another way to show off products, and the company hopes, boost online sales -- which is particularly important for the brick-and-mortar giant and fallen PC player.

"They wanted to bring something that has never been done before," said Rony Zarom, CEO of Watchitoo, the company providing the tech behind Monday's live video stream.

Watchitoo, which supports live streaming for large events with hundreds of thousands of viewers, is placing an interactive layer on the video player. Consumers can ask Kane questions through calls or chat messaging and, more importantly, they can buy the products straight from the video interface.

The idea is that Kane will do a better job of convincing customers to buy the laptop than a regular product page would.

HP's live demo will stream on Walmart.com next week. Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

Zarom said brands can also display coupon codes or other deals on the interface. He said brands are finding it more difficult to get space in physical stores such as Walmart, which is how they used to engage with customers. Hiring experts to do live demos at physical displays is less attractive than creating video that can be distributed online to thousands of people, Zarom said. But generating interactions, and eventually sales, from online videos has been more difficult. Until now, he said.

This won't be some cheaply made Webcast. HP is taping the segment in a studio for high production quality. Kane is a guest expert on QVC and she and her pet English bulldog, Chumley -- who she frequently talks about while on air -- have gained a small following online with QVC's core audience of women aged 35 and older.

But it's not clear if HP will find the same audience on Walmart.com, which Alexa ranks as the 24th most popular site in the US.

This is just a test for HP, which hopes to do more of these productions if next week's events are successful. Zarom said Watchitoo is already talking to other brands about doing similar live demos.

"You will see more brands and more distribution networks that will be using this," he said. "It doesn't mean it will replace the traditional (segments on TV). But it will be an addition."