The Electronic Retailing Association

In the Hot Seat: Interview with Katharina Schneider, CEO MediaShop Group, Austria

CEO Katharina Schneider heads up the MediaShop Team

Thank you so much for doing this interview for ERA Europe. I am sure that there will be many people reading this newsletter who know you but please introduce yourself to the members.

KS: I build up businesses from scratch. My core motivation hereby is my intention to identify fresh ideas, strike new paths and find a way to make them work. Therefore, a clear vision combined with a strong strategic approach builds the solid foundation as well as a general willingness to try new things. For example, I built up Embers, the first work@home based Call Center in the German-speaking area. With MediaShop my team and I succeeded in turning an “old-fashioned” DRTV business model into an successfully operating international omnichannel-enterprise.

How would you describe MediaShop?

MediaShop's philosophy is 'Always something new'

KS: MediaShop is an internationally successful omnichannel enterprise. Strong-selling infomercials on TV, online and at the POS generate an enormously high level of awareness, whereby “moving image” remains at the center of promotional activities. According to MediaShop´s company motto “Always something new” the executive board’s primary focus is on the development and distribution of innovative products that make everyday life easier and solve common problems. The company’s products are represented in over 40 countries worldwide.

Katharina Schneider, CEO, MediaShop Group, Austria.

In 2006, Katharina Schneider became CEO of the MediaShop Group, based in Vienna, Austria.

Prior to this, Katharina had diverse professional experience: she was Marketing Director of a radio station (REWE), she was responsible for the integration of various call centers (Jordan Industries) and also for the total construction of a call center (Embers GmbH) which focuses on home office. She studied at the University of Vienna.

Has MediaShop changed in recent years?

KS: Yes, definitely. We have set a clear strategic focus on turning a pure DRTV-business model into a distribution system that is based on various pillars. Today, DRTV, e-Commerce and Retail/Wholesale contribute each about 1/3 to the overall revenue of MediaShop. It goes without saying, that product innovations are a core driver to success as well as excellence in the execution of our business strategies.

How is business going and how satisfied were you with 2017 sales results?

KS: 2017 has been the most successful year in MediaShops history which is a definite proof for our company strategy. So we are very satisfied with what we have reached so far – our omnichannel approach keeps resulting in constant growth across all sales areas. Furthermore, through my personal engagement in the Austrian TV Start-Up Show “2 Minuten 2 Millionen” we have been able to not only get access to new product ideas and inventions but also raise awareness on a broad level for MediaShop throughout the Austrian market.

What will be new and exciting at Mediashop in 2018?

KS: In addition to our core markets we are now entering the Netherlands. We have agreed an asset deal with Dutch first hour teleshopping brand TelSell and are looking forward to using mutual synergies and common strengths.

In addition we see a lot of potential in a further development of our CRM activities which will open up a variety of interesting options to our business.

What is your growth strategy?

KS: We are striving for further growth in our core markets as well as with TelSell in the Netherlands. It is our aim to develop the Dutch market into an additional successful pillar within the MediaShop universe. TelSell´s well-established brand and its high customer reputation create a solid foundation for us to build on. By combining that with MediaShop´s innovative concepts, international orientation and advanced distribution system we will be able to offer our Dutch customers a wide range of new and exciting product innovations.

(c) Lisa Maria Trauer. The investor line up for Puls4 show '2 Minuten 2 Millionen', with Katharina Schneider in the centre - possibly the greatest chance for Austria's young entrepreneurs.

In January this year, you became the new investor with the Austrian Puls4 Start-up show “2 Minuten, 2 Millionen”. How did this come about and how are you enjoying being part of the show?

KS: The CEO of the Austrian Seven One Media Group has contacted me several times trying to convince me to become part of the Start-Up Show. Since we are continuously searching for new and innovative product ideas this was the next logical step to take for me and for us as a company. Since then everything turned out to be a fascinating and enriching experience. Not only did I get to know passionate and resourceful inventor personalities, but I was also impressed by the high quality of innovations that have been presented throughout the pitches. On top of that it was a great opportunity to partner up with the other investors of the show resulting in both personal and business relationships.

Great ideas do not grow on trees yet they are the lifeblood of the Multi-Channel Home Shopping Industry. What sort of products are you looking for and what are the factors/criteria for success you look for when you decide whether or not to invest in a product?

KS: According to our MediaShop philosophy “Always something new” I was looking for innovative inventions that make everyday life easier and solve common problems. I definitely laid a focus on product and ideas that fit into the MediaShop universe and the distribution channels that we have excellence in. Therefore I mainly invested in “real” products one can actually “touch” rather than in Apps or digital products.

What do you offer the Start-Ups? How do you make the inventors' dreams come true?

KS: On one hand it is a classic sort of cash investment. On the other hand we as MediaShop are able to support with much more than mere monetary funding. We also lend the inventors a professional hand with product development, marketing and distribution. It is very attractive for inventors to partner up with someone who can potentially support them to get their invention spread around the globe – every start-ups biggest dream!

How do you promote the product? Is it important that the inventor explains/promotes the product him/herself or is it better to engage a well-known TV star or experienced sales presenter to promote the innovation?

KS: It totally depends on the product and the inventor’s personality. There is a huge variety of channels over which the product can be sold or presented. In the best case scenario it is a combination of both.

In how many Start ups from the shows have you already invested, and when and how will you launch the first product investment?

KS: I have concluded 16 deals in total, every single one totally different from each other. At the moment we are already successfully selling the first ones via both online and retail channels. For the most promising ones the first TV shows are currently in production.

Do you roll out new product launches in Austria first or do you test in several markets at the same time?

KS: For the “2 Minuten 2 Millionen” products we consider Austria as the test market in order to get representative test results we can build on. Based on these results, we decide if we proceed further into an international rollout or not.

Why do good ideas sometimes fail?

KS: I guess that’s simply “the nature of the beast”. It is an integral part of the business – at the end of the day the customer is the one who decides.

Product development plays a central role in MediaShop's success. Is this something which you normally get involved with personally?

KS: Product development plays a central role for us at MediaShop as we consider it as a key success factor for our business. Therefore, every member of the executive board is personally involved. Our “Club der Erfinder” (translation: 'Inventors Club') is a new project that addresses exactly this aim 100% and is an innovative platform for us to get fresh ideas and inventions.

What motivates you to go to work in the morning?

KS: I simply love this business! It’s fast, it’s dynamic and it offers plenty of opportunities to be creative. The direct approach to the customer enables immediate feedback on whether you have made the right decisions or not. However, there always remains uncertainty about whether a new product will become a bestseller or not. Thus, it never gets boring.

What is your personal philosophy?

KS: Love, Peace & Passion. Love what you do, do everything as passionately and ambitiously as possible and be honest, fair and respectful with everyone you are working with.

What do you enjoy in your free time?

KS: I enjoy the time with my family and love sailing, skiing, scuba diving and yoga.

Katharina Schneider will be one of the key speakers at this year's MCMS Congress on Wednesday 20th June 2018, a high level 1-day discussion forum held during the Multi-Channel Home Shopping Conference in Seville, Spain.

Will you be attending ERA Europe's Multi-Channel Home Shopping Conference in Seville?

KS: MediaShop will be there with a team of 8 people in total, plus I will be attending the conference as well.

This conference is one of the most important conferences of the whole year.

It is a great industry conference offering a lot of opportunities for networking and of course for buying and selling.

Katharina Schneider was interviewed by Amanda Justice for ERA Europe