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Sears puts ‘S’ in seamless experience


Sears Holdings is quite the omnichannel innovator and it just launched another new capability melding digital and physical.

A new customer service initiative called “Meet with an Expert” has launched at Sears Holdings as a means to connect online home appliance shoppers with the retailer’s in-store sales associates. 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. Online shoppers are now given the option of scheduling a time to meet with a Sears appliance specialist at a store location convenient to them.

“We want to blur the lines between our offline and online channels because that is how our customers are shopping,” said Leena Munjal, senior VP of customer service and integrated retail at Sears.

After meeting with a Sears appliance 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.

“I don’t like to use the word selling. I prefer servicing because it is about customers and understanding the needs they have and letting them decide what works best for them,” said Munjal, an 11 year Sears veteran.

The new Meet with an Expert capability is the latest development in Sear’s integrated retail journey than began 14 years ago when the company was among the first to offer buy online, pick up in store.

“We introduced the buy online pick up in store service early on because we saw the changes happening where customers were getting more comfortable buying online,” Munjal said.

Since then, Sears has steadily deepened the level of physical and digital integration. Around 2005, the company launched its “Ready in Five,” guarantee, which like it sounds, guaranteed customers who purchased a product online that it would be ready for pickup within five minutes of their arrival in store.

Other noteworthy developments have occurred more recently. In early 2014, Sears began offering in-vehicle pick-up, which involves employees bringing products to customers’ vehicles. Building on that, the company then began offering customers the ability to return products without getting out of their vehicles. Also in 2014, the company introduced its “Reserve It,” service. Online shoppers are able to select apparel products, select a local store, and an associate will pull the garments and have them hanging near a fitting room ready to try on when the customer arrives.

The strategy appears to be working.

“Sixty percent of online sales are multichannel in nature, meaning a store was involved in the online transaction,” Munjal said.

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