Sears pivots brand focus to membership with mobile as linchpin
As Sears Holdings Corp. continues to shift its focus to being more of a membership-driven retailer, mobile is playing a key role in enhancing member engagements in store and online.
The strategy appears to be working, with Sears reporting that 70 percent of sales are now made to Shop Your Way members, and that number continues to grow. Mobile is instrumental in driving these results, with mobile members engaging with the retailer at a significantly higher rate than customers who are only engaging in store or from a desktop.
“If you look at the Shop Your Way rewards program and the mobile audience in terms of how many times they go back to the store, or transact online or on mobile, they are a lot higher than a regular customer just going online or to the store,” said Andy Chu, divisional vice president of mobile and community experiences at Sears Holdings, Hoffman Estates, IL.
“Mobile is one of the core pillars,” he said. “As we have been talking about being the leading integrated retailer, mobile crosses everything that our customers do, online, in store or on the phone.”
Front and center
The growing focus on membership for Sears comes at a time when its domestic same-store sales are down, with Sears’ stores experiencing a 4 percent drop and Kmart a 2.1 percent drop.
The Shop Your Way rewards program enables members to earn money back on purchases and can be used across all Sears and Kmart stores and Web sites.
A key example of how Sears is successfully meeting the cross-channel shopping needs of its members is that more than 40 percent of orders are now buy online for pick-up in the store.
The focus on mobile to enhance membership is evident from the Sears.com mobile site, which pulls in a lot of information from the Shop Your Way membership program once a member logs on. This includes the number of points a customer has earned.
Customers also receive notifications on the site if they have a layaway contract that is due or have points which are going to expire.
For customers using one of the retailer’s mobile apps, they will receive push notifications with similar information when they log in. The app has also been redesigned to bring forward key membership information.
“We are integrating a number of very member-centric pieces of information front and center on mobile,” Mr. Chu.
Sears is looking at ways to deliver a more personalized experience on mobile to Shop Your Way members. For example, members who log in and shop online from a desktop computer and then go log in to the mobile site later on will see a personalized experience based on their earlier browsing experience.
Still another way that Sears is leveraging mobile to enhance the membership experience is with a service introduced earlier this year enabling members who have placed an order online for pick-up in the store to have the order delivered to their car.
When members arrive in the parking lot, they can go to the Sears or Shop Your Way app and inform the store of their arrival as well as provide their vehicle information. A store associate then brings the order to their car in five minutes.
“So far the engagement has been quite good,” Mr. Chu said. “We are seeing an uptick, and the customer feedback has also been positive.”
Other ways that Sears is leveraging mobile to enhance membership includes mobile gift cards as well as the ability to redeem coupons in-store from a mobile device and to make payments on a layaway contract from a smartphone.
Opportunities to earn
In November, the Shop Your Way mobile app was updated with a new shop-in feature, enabling users who are nearby or inside a store to learn about store-specific sales or coupons that can be downloaded. Users can also do research and communicate with the store or friends to get feedback in real time.
Sears also offers the Shop Sears app, which store associates can use to show members and customers product information.
If customers do not see something that they like, the store associate can also show them items from the Sears Marketplace, where third-party sellers can sell through Sears.com and members can earn rewards on these purchases. Sears Marketplace has over 110 million items.
“One of the key things is this holiday we are pushing a lot of member prices and point redemptions and opportunities to earn points,” Mr. Chu said. “Through the entire flow, the search page, home page and checkout, we are integrating the member benefits, points and pricing throughout the entire experience so people can come and really understand the benefits.”
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York