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Sears ‘ Digital Strategy Keeps Evolving

Imran Jooma, executive VP and president of marketing, online and financial services, Sears Holdings

When it comes to mobile commerce and digital solutions, Sears Holdings has evolved into a best-in-class company, one that has truly embraced the cross-channel shopping experience. Seeking ways to make shopping more convenient for its customers, the chain was among the first to offer visibility to in-store inventory, as well as the ability to buy online and pick up in-store.

One of the centerpieces of Sears’ digital experience is the Shop Your Way program and Shop Your Way Rewards program, which is available on the retailer’s site via a mobile app.

Chain Store Age editor Marianne Wilson talked with Imran Jooma, Sears’ executive VP and president of marketing, online and financial services, about the Shop Your Way program and the chain’s evolving digital strategy.

How is Sears using technology to integrate the customer experience across all channels?

Sears Holdings has been investing in integrated shopping options for years to seamlessly bring the in-store, online and mobile experiences together for our customers and members. Today’s customers are increasingly moving between channels to shop, and our focus on integrated retail is designed to meet the customer where and how he or she wants to shop. About half of the online business at Sears and Kmart now includes interactions with another channel.

Sears Holdings remains a leader in shopping convenience and technology, and our relentless focus on integrated experiences enables us to offer super conveniences across all channels for our Sears and Kmart customers, such as:

• Shop more than 50 million items through our endless aisles online, through the mobile apps or use our in-store terminals at the register to buy online;

• Buy online and pick up in-store, guaranteed in five minutes;

• Text us when you get to the store; we will bring the product to your car;

• Make layaway payment online and on a mobile device, and now our customers can ship their layaway directly to their home;

• Personalized deals and rewards points and shopping privileges through Shop Your Way — a free, member-only rewards program;

• Stores have been equipped with free Wi-Fi; and

• Store associates have been armed with thousands of tablets to work directly with customers to do side-by-side product and price comparisons right in the store.

What role does the SHOP YOUR WAY Rewards program play in this integrated strategy?

We are rapidly moving to a member-centric business model. Shop Your Way is a free, members-only program and shopping community that offers rewards, daily sweepstakes, personalized deals and other customized benefits that is now responsible for driving more than half of Sears’ and Kmart’s business. The program creates new convenience for shoppers by connecting all of the ways to shop in an integrated way — in store, at home, online and via mobile.

Shop Your Way members have access to unique discounts, services and offers, not only through all of Sears and Kmart in-store, online and mobile shopping channels, but also through the social shopping experience of ShopYourWay.com and the Shop Your Way mobile app. Through the Shop Your Way mobile app, members will be notified of exclusive holiday savings and receive coupons that they can access and bring to the store via their mobile devices.

New to holiday season 2012, members were able to return or exchange an item without a receipt or pay off their layaway through mobile device. To add even more value, our members receive 5% back in points when they use their Sears card.

The enhanced Shop Your Way program is first to create a digital experience where members can interact socially about products they want, own and like, and buy directly from the site at the same time. The program is the first to combine a mobile social platform with 2,600 stores and a large existing rewards program with millions of members.

Sears has won kudos for its outstanding use of mobile. Tell us about the company’s overall mobile strategy and how it works to connect all channels?

Mobile is critical to our integrated strategy. As a leading mobile retailer, our relentless focus on integrated experiences enables us to offer superior conveniences for our Sears and Kmart customers, such as the buy online, pick up in-store feature, guaranteed to be ready in five minutes. Plus you can text us when you get to the store for curbside delivery.

Customers can also make layaway payments on a mobile device, and Shop Your Way members can receive personalized deals, rewards points and shopping privileges through the Shop Your Way app. This year, we have introduced mobile checkout at Sears stores that will speed up the checkout process for customers. These are just a few of the ways we’re utilizing mobile this year to connect the in-store, online and mobile experiences to enhance the customer and member experience.

What are some of Sears’s biggest successes in this area?

The penetration of customers using our mobile app and site, as well as the integrated way they are using it is a big success. Over half of our mobile orders are fulfilled in stores, which shows how customers are embracing our integrated retail offering.

What about mobile payments?

As I mentioned previously, in addition to purchasing from our endless aisles of more than 50 million items through the mobile device, customers can also make layaway payments on their smartphones. Through the Shop Your Way mobile app, members have been notified of exclusive holiday savings and received e-coupons that they can access and bring to the store via their mobile devices.

Tell us a little about Sears’ content strategy and how you use it to promote the brand.

We are using a variety of traditional and non-traditional methods to reach our customers and Shop Your Way members, including in-store, via circulars and emails, social media and Twitter parties, and exclusive notifications through mobile apps. We understand that our customers and members are busy and on-the-go, so we want to reach them wherever they are.

What new initiatives are planned for 2013 in the digital arena?

In 2013 we will continue to advance our fully integrated retail solutions to provide seamless accessibility to endless aisles of online merchandise through desktops, mobile apps, tablets and in-store at Sears and Kmart. We will accelerate our engagement with Shop Your Way members utilizing the program’s core platform ShopYourWay.com and the mobile app. Of course, as mobile continues to explode next year, so will our mobile integration for customers and members. And finally, we’ll continue to add merchandise categories to our online store Sears.com, making it a one-stop site for all your needs.

How do you see the role of the physical store evolving going forward?

Our focus on integrated retail is designed to meet the customer where and how he or she wants to shop, and the physical store is a critical element of that offering. Experiences in-store that are digitally enabled to link to online and mobile in a seamless fashion provide additional, differentiated services and benefits to our customers and Shop Your Way members.

© 2014