June 9, 2010, 11:58 AM

Sears innovates to expand customer choice

The retailer focuses on giving shoppers choice, convenience and value, Imran Jooma says. 

Lead Photo

Sears Holdings Corp. is constantly innovating—not for the sake of innovation, but to make customers' lives easier, said Imran Jooma, the retailer's senior vice president and general manager, e-commerce, Wednesday at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

"When customers want something, they want it today and they want it now," he said in a keynote address. "So we center our efforts on giving them choice, convenience and value. The choice to get whatever they want, whenever they want it and however they want it."

For instance, Sears recently added home delivery service of groceries and other goods to its MyGofer shopping service in select metropolitan areas. Launched a year ago, MyGofer is a hybrid online/bricks-and-mortar experiment that allows shoppers to buy online and pickup their orders at a Kmart store in the Chicago suburbs that has been converted into a drive-through warehouse, as well as select Kmart stores.

Choice also means having the items for which shoppers are looking. To bolster its product offerings, Sears, No. 8 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, introduced Marketplace on Sears.com, which enables merchants to sell on Sears.com. The effort increased assortment on the site by nearly 12 million products, Jooma said.

If a shopper still can't find the item she wants, she can use the retailer's PersonalShopper program that allows a consumer seeking a hard-to-find item to communicate with a Sears representative by e-mail, phone call or live chat from a Sears web site. In addition, a consumer can download the PersonalShopper app to her mobile phone, take a picture of a desired item with her phone's camera and e-mail the photo to a Sears personal shopper. When the agent finds the desired item, he alerts the shopper when it is available for pickup.

To save shoppers time, Sears offers Web to Store, a buy online/pickup in-store option that enables customers to designate other people to pick up the item. As soon as a customer arrives at a store, the order is guaranteed to be ready within five minutes or that customer receives a $5 gift card.

"You'll be in and out of a store in less than 5 minutes," said Jooma. And, in some locations, Sears offers curbside instead of in-store pickup.

To reassure customers they're getting a good deal, everything on Sears is backed by a 110% price guarantee. "You don't have to make sure you have the right price, you will," said Jooma. "And if you're not, you get a price guarantee."

And to help shoppers juggle their hectic schedules—from to-do lists to home improvement projects—Sears offers shoppers the web site ManageMyLife.com. "We want to help customers get things done," he said.

Tying together these various efforts and sites are the retailer's mobile initiatives. Sears has apps for ManageMyLife, PersonalShopper, Sears and a slew of the company's other projects. Mobile stands at the epicenter of multichannel retailing, said Jooma. "We've got to be able to take advantage of the mobile phone's capability to create personalized experiences for shoppers and create relationships with them," he said.

By helping shoppers shop, Sears can build bonds with consumers, he added. "It's about choice and convenience and helping shoppers get things done."

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