August 30, 2001, 12:00 AM

How Sears is achieving a multi-channel payoff from the web

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In addition to providing searchable information on its web site, Sears has deals with America Online and MSNeShop to position in search result pages in another effort to drive traffic to the web site. In some cases, Sears banner ads appear when consumers search for items related to Sears’ product mix.

Online sales grow also is using e-mail marketing to promote all channels. “Our database has grown significantly thanks to the success we’ve had with e-mail marketing,” Charno says. “It’s proving to be quite an opportunity for Sears.”

Emphasis on the stores, though, is not to say that Sears is not selling on its web site. Although the company does not break out web sales numbers, Sears’ online sales in 2000 were four times sales in 1999 and Sears expects 2001 to be at least two times what they were in 2000. “Conversion rates are improving with each cycle, the trends are positive and the growth curve is encouraging,” Charno says.

Looking back, it may be that Sears’ blueprint for utilizing the online channel successfully was as much a visionary plan as it was a logical one for the corporation at the time. As other multichannel retailers struggle to rebuild, refocus and reintegrate their online businesses to adapt to the changing online landscape, Sears already is experiencing the fusion of its multichannel approach. “Sears’ hardline online goods are doing very very well and we know that they are going to continue to evolve and improve their web strategy,” says Alethea Podmore, director of marketing at The Retail Group, Seattle-based retail consultants.

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