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Sears expands omnichannel service; hopes more people will seek out ‘expert’


Sears Holding Corp. is making a timely expansion to its seamless “Meet With An Expert” service as it looks to engage with shoppers this spring.

Sears has extended its “Meet With An Expert” service introduced last fall to its lawn and garden department. The free service allows online shoppers to schedule in-store appointments with experts in specific product areas.

The retailer timed its latest iteration of “Meet With An Expert” to coincide with its “Spring It On Black Friday” event April 22-23, which will offer Black Friday-level pricing on outdoor equipment and other home goods.

"From finding the right type of mower to a more powerful trimmer to the perfect-sized shed and more, “Meet With An Expert” takes the guesswork out of shopping for lawn and garden products," said Joelle Maher, president and chief member officer for Sears.

The service initially launched in fall 2015, with appliances. After meeting with an expert, a shopping recap can be emailed to the customer with links to products in which they expressed an interest to help close the sale. Because the path to purchase for big-ticket, high-consideration products like appliances typically begins online, Sears wanted to create an option for online shoppers to have continuity of their experience in a physical store.

Sears has long been a leader in digital retail innovation. The company was an early provider of buy online pick up in store functionality back in 2001. Around 2005, Sears introduced its “Ready in Five” guarantee that ensures customers will not have to wait more than five minutes in-store to pick up an online purchase. In 2009, the retailer purchased Israeli social media engine Delver, which was the origin of its “Shop Your Way” social platform.

More recently, in 2014 Sears began offering in-vehicle product pickup and return service, as well as an online “Reserve It” service that lets online shoppers select apparel products to be set aside at a local store for try-on.

Despite these numerous innovations, Sears still struggles with sales and profitability. According to the retailer, 60% of its online sales involve a store, so offering more omnichannel services that blend physical and digital channels makes sense. But the industry should watch Sears closely to see just how effective seamless customer experience is for a retailer that appears to be having problems in areas such as marketing and merchandising.

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