The buzzwords abound — integrated retail, e-commerce — and consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using these words. No matter what you call it, they are looking for and expecting the same thing: a seamless online to in-store or in-store to online experience.
Today more than ever, retailers are in a race to not only gain the attention of consumers, but also to hold that attention. And the key to doing so is reaching them everywhere they are every time — no matter what time of day or what kind of device they’re on — and to make their shopping experience better and easier than ever.
This is because technology has changed the way we live. Customers have changed the way they shop. And as retailers, we must change the way we sell.
Customers want a shopping experience that combines the physical world of shopping (including the ability to touch and feel a product and talk to a knowledgeable sales associate in-store) with the digital world of e-commerce (including the ability to find additional product information and richer content with customer reviews).
In October, the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org division forecasted a 13% to 15% increase in online holiday sales, an increase of 2% to 4% from the 2012 season. And according to research firm Ipsos, 37% of U.S. adults who plan to shop on Black Friday say they’ll shop online and in stores — more than those who plan to shop primarily online or in stores — a distinct indication of the evolved services that retailers must offer to stay in the game.
To meet these ever-changing shopping needs, we are investing in online, mobile and in-store enhancements to build a fully integrated shopping ecosystem, with our most loyal repeat Shop Your Way members (who represent 70% of Sears and Kmart transactions and sales), regardless of whether they are in our stores, in their homes or on their phones or tablets.
As the foundation of this approach, Sears’ and Kmart’s Shop Your Way member program offers rewards, specials, product reviews, e-coupons and e-receipts for faster returns and exchanges. The program, which is free and instant to join, seamlessly connects all the ways members shop to help them manage their time and budgets.
At Sears Holdings, we are building a world-class social commerce platform for — and with — our members because we believe shopping should be fun and rewarding. We are bringing the online capabilities that we've built into our stores and bringing our store capabilities to our online business. For example, we’ve armed many of our Sears associates with SHOPsears tablets that help associates and customers find inventory, sizes and pricing, read reviews on products and speed up the checkout process.
This holiday season, we are looking for smart ways to offer more e-commerce options that make the shopping experience convenient and rewarding for our Shop Your Way members and customers and to drive the business.
Our relentless focus on an integrated experience is enabling us to offer super conveniences for our customers such as a one-stop-shop to make holiday gifting more convenient: There are now more than 100 million items available on Marketplace at Sears.com, making Sears one of the largest marketplace and commerce solution providers on the Web.
Another example is a new feature on the Shop Your Way mobile app called “Shop’in.” Members can “check in” when they are near or in a Sears or Kmart store to save money — from unlocking special deals and personalized offers, to making smarter purchases by comparing prices and products, and reading customer reviews. Mobile shoppers using the Shop Your Way app can browse and buy millions of items, get real-time access to inventory information and product reviews, enjoy a fast checkout process, and connect with other members and knowledgeable store associates for instant advice on products. We are placing our bets on the evolution of retail becoming a more social and collaborative process.
Our 360 degree-integrated shopping approach also includes:
• Kmart’s new lease-to-own program that will give customers a no credit-required way to take home products they need or want, right away.
• Waived layaway fees (Sept. 8–Nov. 23 and Dec. 1–28 at Kmart, and Oct. 25–Nov. 25 at Sears) and online layaway payments to help customers manage their budgets. Sears and Kmart remain the only retailers to offer layaway both online and in-store year-round with a full range of merchandise and no minimum purchase.
• Pay In Store, Kmart’s flexible online shopping service in which shoppers can reserve items online and pay at their local Kmart store using their preferred payment method — cash, check, debit, Shop Your Way points, credit or gift card.
• Multiple free shipping options: Free Store Pickup or the option to have purchases picked up by family or friends at any Sears or Kmart store across the country to make mobile and online ordering as convenient as possible.
• Mobile checkout at Sears to help associates and customers find inventory, sizes and pricing, read reviews on products and speed up the checkout process.
At Sears Holdings, we’ll continue to invest in blurring the boundaries between in-store and online to allow members and customers to make purchases how, when and where they want — to create experiences that hold the attention of our members and make them want to come back more.
Imran Jooma is EVP and president, marketing, online, pricing and financial services at Sears Holdings.