October 13, 2011, 12:42 PM

Sears encourages mobile comparison shopping with free Wi-Fi

And it’s arming its associates with mobile devices.

Lead Photo

The merchant is outfitting associates with iPads and other mobile devices to enhance customer service in stores.

Sears Holdings Corp. is putting its money where its mouth is by offering in-store shoppers free Wi-Fi access at select stores. Not only will this provide customers with faster access to the merchant’s mobile commerce site and apps, it will speed them to the sites and apps of other retailers. And that’s fine with Sears, which says it is standing behind its prices.

With free Wi-Fi customers can use their smartphones to surf the web, shop online at Sears.com or compare prices before they purchase to make sure they are getting the best price on the products they want, the company says.

“We are upgrading the entire network and technology infrastructures, including enhanced wireless coverage,” says Keith Sherwell, senior vice president and chief information officer. “This will provide our associates with innovative tools to support our customers at the highest levels of personal engagement, while also offering customers a uniquely rich, integrated retail experience.”

Those tools that Sears will give employees include Apple Inc. iPad and iPod Touch devices. Sears, No. 21 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300, is arming its store associates with the devices starting in nearly 450 locations. It’s part of a strategic plan, the merchant says, to enhance the relationship between customers and associates while improving the overall in-store shopping experience.

The aim is to immediately improve customer service in-store and create a more personalized shopping experience for customers. Associates will be able to help customers check available inventory, order products online, and access product information and videos.

“Leveraging wireless access and mobile technology and putting new tools into the hands of our associates and customers is another step toward becoming a truly integrated retailer,” says Deidra Merriwether, senior vice president at Sears and president of retail services. “Sears is committed to not only innovating at the product level but also to utilizing these types of technologies to continue to improve the shopping experience for our customers in the store, online and at home.”

Sears also is targeting the devices at improving associate training, task management and productivity by helping associates become more knowledgeable and enabling them to assist customers faster and easier.

The department store retailer plans to add applications and features to the devices throughout the rest of the year, it says, to make shopping easier and more exciting for customers during the holiday shopping season.

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