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Sears integrates online and in-store shopping journey for appliance buyers

The service, which is available across desktop, mobile Web and tablet, enables shoppers conducting online research to make an appointment with an associate at a local store to view items of interest in person. The new service was developed in response to Sears’ observations about how its customers shop for home appliances.

“We saw that a large set of our customers, when considering big items like appliances, they start their research online by coming to, looking up ratings and reviews and browsing products to form a point of view of products,” said Leena Munjal, senior vice president of customer experience and integrated retail at Sears.

“As much as browsing online is important, they also appreciate going to the store and getting a feel for the product,” she said. “Also, they like speaking to a human who is an expert doing this everyday to make sure the product they are going to buy based on research is a good product.

“How do we make it really easy to seamlessly move between both and provide continuity with the experience so they don’t have to start from scratch every time.”

Shopper confidence
When shoppers are looking at a product page for an appliance on, they will see an option to with an expert. If they click on this, an associate will call them back to set up an appointment to meet at the store.

For big-ticket purchases such as home appliances, consumer increasingly start the shopping journey online, where they research different models and makes to get a sense of which items best meet their needs.

Many consumers then continue the journey with a trip to a local store so they can touch and feel the items their online research uncovered. However, this often means starting from scratch in the store, with shoppers having to explain to store associates what they are interested in.

Meet with an Expert attempts to address this issue by giving shoppers a way to make an appointment with a local store associate. The idea is that the associate then has the information about which items a shopper is interested in beforehand in order to be prepared with more information about those items and recommendations for possible alternatives the shopper may not be aware of.

The goal is to not only streamline the shopping experience but also to make shoppers feel confident about their purchase by being able to connect with an in-store expert.

On-the-go research
Meet with an Expert is in keeping with some of the other omnichannel services Sears has introduced. For example, some shoppers come into a store intending to make a purchase but then decide to go home and think about it some more. Sears can send these shoppers an email with a link to the item so they complete the purchase at home if they desire.

Sears is also hearing positive feedback on the ability for shoppers to place an order online and then pick it up at the store without having to get out of their car. This service is powered by the retailer’s app, with users checking-in via the app once they are in the parking lot and Sears promising to bring them their purchase within five minutes.

It Meet with an Expert does well, Sears will consider bringing it to the retailer’s mobile application.

“For appliances, the majority of the research happens digitally,” Ms. Munjal said. “We are seeing the shift from desktop to mobile as they may do the research on the go.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York