Retailer Sears is remaking itself for the 21st century. That’s no mean feat for a 124-year-old brand that helped found catalog sales, but Sears Holdings Corp., which operates the Sears and Kmart brands, has been aggressive in bringing its merchandising and marketing online with Web communities (MySears.com) and mobile commerce (Sears2Go). Chief Marketer talked with Sears’ senior vice president online Imran Jooma about new initiatives under the brand’s “ShopYourWay” multichannel strategy.
CM: You recently launched Marketplace at Sears.com, which lets online shoppers on your site find and buy products from retailers other than Sears and Kmart, something that’s so far done only by Amazon and Walmart. Why?
Jooma: We start with the notion of offering our customers choices when it comes to shopping, arming them to buy how and when they want to: from their homes, using a mobile app, in stores or calling our contact centers. A very large assortment of products is part of that choice. The Marketplace initiative lets our customers shop 10 million items from 1500 third-party sellers and across 400 categories.
CM: What led to the decision to open up Sears.com to competing vendors?
Jooma: We have a very active fan community at MySears.com, where we’ve been able to gauge the types of categories our customers are interested in. Customers indicated this is what they wanted, so it’s what we delivered. We had high customer satisfaction scores in December, and that’s partly why — because we’re listening, acting and delivering.
CM: Offering that many products on a site can lead to unwieldy navigation. What is Sears doing to make the site shopper-friendly?
Jooma: We’ve added tools that make online browsing easy. Over the course of last year, we launched Quick View and ClickSee, which gives you a quick visual of related and compatible products. We also worked on recommendations, to give online customers help with choices.
CM: Sears has put a lot of emphasis on online communities — both its internal communities and external spaces like Facebook, where a lot of its marketing efforts are now pointed. What’s the strategic value of social media?
Jooma: Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or the MySears community, that’s where customers are right now. We want to build those relationships, so that’s where we want to be. We listen, and what we hear there helps us improve not just the online experience but the in-store experience as well.
CM: Sears recently added an iPhone app to its Sears2Go mobile shopping initiative. Is that a brand awareness move, or do you expect people to shop for appliances, for example, on their phones?
Jooma: Mobile commerce is in its early stages, and it’s best to look at it right now from an engagement perspective. The same holds true for our efforts in the social space: we’re seeing what we can evolve from our learnings there.