Mobile Commerce Daily is now Retail Dive: Mobile Commerce! Click here to learn more!

Sears taps into the potential of live chat

Sears responds to the online shopping woe of consumer disconnect with a personalized service for its members that leverages online and mobile channels to connect those who need assistance to a nationwide team of store associates.

Get Advice, powered by Shop Your Way, gives Sears’ members the option to get instant advice on products and services through their devices while shopping. The decision to include this feature is backed up from Forrester Research, which reported that the opportunity to connect with a real person that has a specific product or department expertise is one of the top 10 trends changing the retail industry.

“Shopping behaviors have already changed to match our digital lifestyle,” said Leena Munjal, senior vice president, member experience and integrated retail, Sears Holdings, Hoffman Estates, IL. “Get Advice and the other services and tools we’ve introduced through Shop Your Way seamlessly integrate digital and physical shopping to create new convenience and flexibility.

“By providing this level of personalized service to our members we aim to be the go-to destination for all their needs and build lasting relationships with them,” she said.

Retail therapy
The implementation of Get Advice aims to cut down on shopping confusion by empowering consumers either though PCs or mobile devices to ask and get answers from real store associates about potential purchases and product details.

Shoppers who want the luxury of using Get Advice must be members of the retail chain’s Shop Your Way loyalty program.

“One of the member needs we identified is that they have a variety of questions they need reliable answers to,” Ms. Munjal said. “This tool allows us to go beyond our breakthrough technology and leverage our greatest asset – the thousands of knowledgeable Sears associates in our stores across America – to provide a value to members unmatched by other retailers.”

Sears explains the benefits of Shop Your Way services

Here is how it works: Rewards members log on to and select the “Ask a Question” button in the Get Advice section or any product page when browsing the site.

When an asker types a question a list of similar or relevant already answered questions pop up.

If the user is not satisfied by these, he or she can follow through and post a question.

After a question is submitted, answers are sent out from store associates across the country.

Live communication features can help prevent customers from abandoning a sale out of frustration.

“Making Proactive Chat Work,” a study conducted by Forrester Research, found that many online consumers want help from a live person while they are shopping online. In fact, 44 percent of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer.

Talk to me
In comparison to call centers, an online chat system allows customers to multitask, which may improve overall sales, and relieves the pain of having to dial a 1-800 number and navigate through a maze of numeric options.

There are currently 400 Sears stores with participating employees who are equipped with tablets and handheld devices to assist with in-store and online inquiries.

The associates will get a ping notification on their device when a Get Advice question comes through, allowing them to respond quickly if they are knowledgeable on the subject. If an associate is assisting an in-store member and a question comes through, the priority is on serving the in-store member.

Sears has another social program called Member Assist, where loyalty club members can choose to communicate online with employees at specific Sears locations. The idea is that regular patrons might have a favorite associate, or prefer to speak someone who is local.

Attention to retail
Sears makes it convenient for those moments when guests remember a question they wanted to ask after already leaving the store. Customers can also provide photos of a recently purchased item and asked question on how to assemble or use it, saving time and hassle of having to go back to the store or call and wait on hold.

By soothing these pain points, the goal behind Get Advice and Member Assist services is provide immediate relief to consumer angst while also giving Sears feedback that can be used to improve products and services.

“It is no surprise that technology has changed the way we live and shop,” Ms. Munjal said. “As a leading integrated retailer, it is our responsibility to continue to find new ways to blur the boundaries between offline and online commerce by enhancing our mobile and online technologies to create new conveniences for our Shop Your Way members.

“Tools such as Get Advice and Member Assist provide quick access to information for faster purchasing decisions, which helps our members get the most out of their shopping experience.”

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York