April 22, 2009, 12:00 AM

Sears becomes a member of the exclusive mobile app club

Sears has bolstered its mobile channel with a new mobile application for the iPhone. It’s among a very small number of retailers with mobile apps. And Sears has one-upped the others, incorporating satellite technology for customized shopping.

Following the launch in November of its mobile commerce site Sears2go.com, Sears Holdings Corp. has unveiled a mobile application designed for iPhone and iPod Touch users. The app can be downloaded for free from Apple Inc.’s hugely popular App Store.

It joins a handful of retailers pioneering the use of mobile apps in web shopping. And it’s upping the ante in apps by being the first to incorporate GPS satellite technology.

Mobile applications afford a richer experience than using a browser to access a mobile commerce site because the software resides on the consumer’s phone and can take advantage of the computing power of advanced handsets like the iPhone.

Upon launching the app, shoppers are given the option of entering a ZIP code or allowing the app to use the iPhone’s built-in GPS technology to pinpoint the location of the shopper. The app then customizes the shopping experience, showcasing geographically relevant products, such as local sports teams apparel, the closest stores to where the shopper is at that moment, and even current weather conditions.

Shoppers can search Sears products, browse by category, review current coupons and perform other tasks as they would on the Sears e-commerce site. The mobile app, linked to Sears’ back-end e-commerce systems via the mobile Internet, is fully transactional, enabling shoppers to complete purchases without going to an m-commerce or e-commerce site.

“We’ve had a lot of great feedback on Sears2go.com, and customers have been asking for a native iPhone app,” says Thomas Emmons, mobile team leader at Sears, No. 8 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. “The world is really changing. If I go to my wife’s parents’ house on the weekend, for example, I can bring my iPhone and leave my laptop at home. If as a retailer you don’t have an answer for that, you are really going to be left out. A lot has happened in the last eight to 10 months, especially with the release of the iPhone 3G where the vast majority of our mobile traffic comes from.”

3G refers to the high-speed, so-called third-generation wireless networks that mobile carriers have been rolling out.

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