May 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

MySears and MyKmart launch as standalone community sites

Community sites allow consumers to post reviews, communicate with each other and link back to the e-commerce sites to buy.

Sears Holdings Corp. has launched two online communities as venues for consumers to read and write reviews as well as communicate with each other in a variety of ways to share information about products. The aim is to help customers make purchasing decisions, the retailer says. and are run on a platform from vendor Viewpoints Network LLC. Viewpoints is just getting into the social platform market and these two communities are the company’s first retail networks. Viewpoints launched in 2007 as a stand-alone site offering independent reviews in hundreds of product categories.

Though they are linked to the main Sears and Kmart sites, and are separate from the merchants’ retail sites. “Our main reason for doing that is that we know from time to time people don’t necessarily want to buy something-they just want to participate in the community,” says Rob Harles, Sears’ vice president of community.

The communities allow members to write product reviews, post comments on the reviews of others, participate in discussion boards and post ideas for the community to vote on. They can upload photos, and write blog posts as well as exchange private messages with other community members. Users also can create their own profiles on the sites, and Sears hopes to soon add functionality to allow members to import their existing profiles from other social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Harles says Sears used the Viewpoints platform because it was quicker and less expensive than building the communities in-house. He declined to say how much Sears spent on the communities.

Sears is measuring many aspects of activity on the communities including direct contribution to sales, Harles says. Sears will gauge the effectiveness of both community sites in terms of how well they engage consumers, defined as whether customers are going to the sites, talking with one another on them and inviting their friends to join, he says.

“At Sears we believe engaging our shoppers and providing the tools for them to get advice before they buy are central to our future,” Harles adds. “The Viewpoints technology platform enables MyKmart and MySears to fulfill these goals and provides shoppers with an interactive experience to connect with likeminded individuals and have a say in Sears’ future by sharing their thoughts directly with us.”

Sears Holdings Corp. is No. 7 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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