April 24, 2014, 9:19 AM

Sears strives to give online shoppers personalized product advice

The chain’s loyalty club members can now use computers or mobile devices to ask questions of store associates.

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Sears Holdings Corp. has debuted another e-commerce personalization service, this one centered around expert advice for products and services.

Called “Get Advice,” the service aims to siphon confusion from shopping by enabling consumers, either via their personal computers or mobile devices, to seek and gain answers from store associates about potential purchases and product details. There is a catch: Consumers must belong to the retail chain’s Shop Your Way loyalty program to use the service.

“We’re using technology to virtually open the doors to Sears stores across the country giving our members access to the expertise of thousands of our associates,” says Leena Munjal, senior vice president, member experience and integrated retail, Sears Holdings. “This level of interaction is another way we are integrating the digital and physical shopping experience—members can enjoy the advantage of getting great advice from the stores plus engage the vast Shop Your Way community.”

Get Advice works like this:

• Loyalty club shoppers on ShopYourWay.com click the “Ask a Question” section in the “Get Advice” section or on a product page while shopping on the site, Sears says.

• A consumer types a question. Similar previously answered questions pop up as the user types, Sears says.

• If there is no answer already, the consumer then follows the prompts to post the question.

• After question submission, answers “will start flowing in from store associates across the country,” Sears says.

“Sears has 400+ stores where associates have tablets and handheld devices to assist the in-store members and customers,” says a spokeswoman for the chain. “Associates get a ping on their device when a Get Advice question comes through, allowing them to quickly add a response if they have knowledge on the subject. If they are assisting an in-store member and a question comes through, the priority is on serving that member.”

The Get Advice feature is not to be confused with a program called “Member Assist” that Sears also makes available to its loyalty club members. For Member Assist, consumers elect to communicate online with associates at specific Sears stores—the idea being that regulars might have favorite employees, or want to deal with someone from a local store.

“The Shop Your Way community is a resource unlike any other in retailing,” says Eric Jaffe, senior vice president, Shop Your Way, Sears Holdings. “Get Advice and Member Assist are social commerce at its most powerful—access to trusted information, latest knowledge and valuable feedback on any of the millions of products members can find on ShopYourWay.com for sale by Sears and others.”

Sears is No. 5 in the brand new Internet Retailer 2014 Top 500 Guide.

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