Sears helps online shoppers find real-person help on appliances
October 21, 2015 09:22 AM
Sears is letting appliance shoppers go online to set up in-store meetings with sales associates prepped to talk about the shopper’s interests, answer questions and complete the sale.
The “Meet with an Expert” service unveiled Wednesday shows up as a link on Sears.com. It lets shoppers list the appliance they want to buy so the sales associate is armed with information about that product when shoppers comes in for the meeting.
“When the shopper comes into the store for the appointment, he or she doesn’t have to start from scratch,” says Leena Munjal, Sears senior vice president of customer experience and integrated retail. Sears chose to offer in-store appointments because appliances are a major purchase in which the entire family is involved. “As a shopper, I want to open the fridge with my family there, to talk with a person, to have the human component of touch and feel,” she says. “It represents continuity from the online experience to the stores.”
Sears, No. 5 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, manages the service in-house on an open-source platform that communicates with existing servers and application program interfaces, Munjal says.
About 60% of Sears shoppers research products online before they buy them, Munjal says. The appliance service complements a series of multichannel initiatives Sears has implemented in the past several years, Munjal says. They include a “Shopping Recap” service launched in 2011 in which appliance shoppers receive an email after their in-store visit, detailing the model numbers and other aspects of products they looked at, and the 2014 introduction of online scheduling of picking up, reserving or exchanging a product that a store associate delivers to a shopper parked outside.
In-vehicle pickup has been especially popular with mothers of young children and shoppers in cold-winter weather locations because they can remain in their heated cars and wait no more than five minutes to get the products they’ve ordered, Munjal says. The customer parks in a designated area of a Sears store parking lot, opens the Sears app for the service, hits a button to let store associates know she’s waiting, and a five-minute timer pops up on her smartphone to initiate the process, she says.
“One of the big things we’ve learned is that rolling out technology requires training our associates and making sure they have the tools, resources and training to use it,” Munjal says. “We make sure the associates in the store and out in the field use the technology themselves to understand how it actually works. It is a big deal in order to keep customers. If that’s how they shop, we have to make sure the technology comes to life.”