July 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Sears turns to Facebook to help boost sales to college students

The mass merchant has introduced a Facebook page, Campus Ready, with three Facebook applications designed to help college students plan for their move into dorms and their wardrobe, furnishings and supplies needs.

Sears Holdings Corp. is hoping college kids’ love of Facebook translates into more back-to-school sales online. The mass merchant has introduced a Facebook page with three Facebook applications designed to help college students plan for their move into dorms and their wardrobe, furnishings and supplies needs.

The Campus Ready page’s three applications are the Campus Gift Getter, Dorm Room Designer and Roommate Matchup. And Campus Ready enables shoppers to purchase products while remaining on Facebook-Facebook pages guide shoppers through checkout, which is handled behind the scenes connected to Sears.com servers.

“Our Campus Ready program allows Sears to connect directly with students as they plan to go off to college,” says Don Hamblen, chief marketing officer at Sears. “We began by developing the Campus Gift Getter and transitioned into our Roommate Matchup and Dorm Room Designer applications. These applications allow students to get to know their new roommates and furnish their dorm room with their collective style in an affordable manner. The combination of these tools will help to prepare students as they enter the next stage of their life.”

Sears’ Campus Gift Getter is set up in a similar fashion to a bridal or baby registry. Students can log on to Facebook to register and select their wish list. Once registered, family and friends of the students can access the registry online, review selections and purchase items on the graduate’s wish lists. Users have the option to purchase individual items from the registry or contribute to a larger ticket item via GiveTogether, Sears’ newly launched group gift-giving concept. GiveTogether connects gift givers and recipients by pooling the resources of a group enabling them to make special, big-ticket purchases.

Dorm Room Designer was created to help students tackle the challenge of transitioning from bedroom to dorm room. This tool connects roommates and provides a forum for them to collaborate on the design of their new home, purchase items online and pick them up at the store nearest school.

Sears, No. 7 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is teaming with Ty Pennington, TV’s home makeover star, to weigh in with tips for optimal dorm room design. Through the Dorm Room Designer tool, Pennington will share his ideas on how to create the ideal dorm setting.

And the Roommate Matchup tool helps introduce students to one another before college begins. After identifying their new roommates, students can use the Facebook tool to gain insight into their new living situation. An interactive survey provides personal compatibility results and visual product suggestions. All product suggestions are automatically added to the virtual dorm room for consideration. Then, roommates can see what their ultimate dorm room looks like.

Back on the e-commerce site, Sears has incorporated more back-to-school tools. These include shop by dorm room, shop by need, an interactive checklist of college essentials, money sense tips and a fill-my-closet wardrobe checklist.

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