ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Industry Dive acquired Mobile Commerce Daily in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates, may not have migrated over. Check out our topic page for the latest mobile commerce news.

Sears incentivizes app downloads with free in-store shipping perk

Sears is fueling more downloads of its mobile application this season by asking in-store shoppers to enable location settings on their smartphones, select and pay for out-of-stock items within the app and receive complimentary shipping.

As retailers go head-to-head in their bid to capitalize on holiday sales, Sears is attempting to bump up digital purchases by leveraging a special shipping option for loyal app users. Additionally, the brand is driving app usage by making its Wheel of Fortune Holiday Puzzler game playable on mobile, which gives consumers a chance to win gift cards every day through December 11.

“Mobile devices are so much a part of our members’ lives and they’re not only researching and sharing, they’re also buying – all while on-the-go,” said Leena Munjal, senior vice president of customer experience and integrated retail at Sears Holdings, Hoffman Estates, IL.

“So it’s more important than ever to have a robust, simple-to-use shopping app with features and services that no other major retailer offers in order to ensure that our customers are able to quickly and conveniently purchase and get what they want.”

Anticipating customer demand
Retailers have begun realizing that a make-or-break aspect of the purchasing cycle is shipping, particularly for customers who are unwilling or unable to shell out a few extra dollars to have their purchases delivered to their doorsteps.

This has prompted many retailers to offer free shipping on peak sale days, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so as not to deter any potential purchases. Sears is taking this strategy one step further by allowing customers who are in one of its bricks-and-mortar locations to pay for products within the app, and select free in-store shipping if the items are out of stock.

If individuals are seeking a color or size of an item that is not available in-store, they may open the Sears app, select the desired piece and enjoy free shipping on any orders placed while they are in a Sears store. Location settings must be enabled so the app can recognize that a user is standing in one of the retailer’s stores.

A slew of other brands offer customers the perk of receiving free shipping if a product is not available on shelves, but Sears is hoping to improve efficiency for its associates as well as shoppers by making this option accessible for mobile users.

Instead of standing in a potentially long line to ask an associate to place an order, shoppers will be able to open the app immediately, personally input their address and payment information and select the free shipping option. This will free up time for the in-store employees and also help circumvent long queues during the busy holiday shopping season.

Sears claims it has seen more than 33 percent of its online traffic stem from smartphones this year, up 46 percent from last year. This prompted the retailer to reward loyal customers with easy-to-use features, and also entice other shoppers to download or update its eponymous app for access to several new features.

Shop Your Way members that opt to update the Sears app will earn $5 in points to use toward their next purchase of $15 or more. Consumers who download the app for the first time will also receive this reward.

“The special offer is a ‘thank you’ to our members who already use the Sears app, and a welcome gift to new users who download it,” Ms. Munjal said. “We think they’ll really enjoy the simplicity and time-saving features we’ve added.

“And who couldn’t use an extra $5 for a stocking stuffer at this time of year?”

Gamifying branded experiences
The new app update is enabling Sears customers to enjoy the Wheel of Fortune Holiday Puzzler game on their mobile devices. The retailer plans to give away $1,000 in gift cards to daily winners through December 11, thereby offering additional incentive to interact with the application beyond shopping and browsing.

Additionally, the eCoupons section provides a streamlined way of discovering, loading and redeeming discounts. Shop Your Way members receive personalized online and in-store discount that can be stored within the app, eliminating the need for consumers to carry around paper clippings.

Users can also take advantage of In-Vehicle Pickup and layaway options offered by the retailer.

Sears has been angling its marketing approach more heavily toward mobile users as of late. In November, the brand pushed sales for home improvement and appliance services with a new dynamic Web site that emphasized mobile utility and supported its reputation as a leader in this segment (see story).

“The Sears app is the perfect companion for busy holiday shoppers,” Ms. Munjal said. “Shipping is another important consideration for holiday shoppers.

“We want to ensure our shoppers leave happy and get what they came for.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York