Sears explores mobile commerce frontier with new Sears2go site

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Sears, Roebuck & Co. made its name in the late 1800s by cultivating an innovative mail-order business to service the sprawling expanse of rural America. More than a century later, the company has been transformed into a multibillion-dollar cross-channel retailer. But its trademark entrepreneurial spirit lives on, the latest frontier for Sears being the burgeoning mobile commerce space.

“We’ve been dabbling in mobile for the last two years, and we’ve actually done lots of test-and-learn initiatives around SMS alerts, text-to-win contests and [mobile] marketing campaigns,” said Ravi Acharya, director of e-commerce at Sears Holdings. “We want to … be one step ahead of the general curve.”

In November, Sears unveiled, which the company described as the “first on-the-go technology offered by a U.S. retailer.” Sears2go enables customers to research and buy apparel, electronics and computers; fitness and sports equipment; jewelry; tools; and toys and games via their cellphones. The site is optimized for use on approximately 400 different devices.

According to Acharya, establishing a strong foothold in mobile commerce is important to Sears’ ability to meet the demands of today’s consumers.

“It’s a lot of the same customers who do research online and then go into a store to buy. We see people looking through catalogs, and then they call the call center to purchase or go online … or into a store,” Acharya said. “Adding mobile as another convenient channel is a good fit for us.”

For this reason, Sears strived to integrate the mobile site seamlessly into its channel mix. Sears2go offers the same level of security as It also has many of the same tools and features, including product reviews and ratings, a store locater and order status.

Mobile customers can choose home delivery or in-store pickup—something Acharya believes will add value and convenience for cost-conscious holiday shoppers.

“If you don’t want to pay for shipping—in this economy, of course, that’s a concern—you could literally purchase something on the way home and pick it up in the store,” he said.

Sears2go is currently being promoted through mobile advertising networks, on the home page and in Sears catalogs.

“We want to stress the multichannel aspect of this and not say that this is completely new and we’re doing something different,” Acharya said.

Leveraging Sears2go’s convenience during the hectic holiday season, the company is also conducting a street marketing campaign at Chicago train stations to target busy commuters.

According to Acharya, Sears is committed to mobile commerce for the long term. Sears2go will continue to evolve based on user feedback. In the future, he hopes to incorporate such advanced technologies as 2D bar code scanning for applications like couponing or connecting in-store customers to online product reviews via mobile devices.

But for now, the company’s primary goal is to size up customers’ reactions to the mobile experience. Acharya said Sears is monitoring site traffic, shopping cart activity and the percentage of customers completing purchases. It is also tracking data on who is using the site and for which kinds of purchases.

“We have seen everything from a $10 shirt to a $700-to-$800 laptop being purchased on the phone; and it’s pretty much from every state in the U.S.,” he said. “That’s very good learning for us because we had no way to predict that.”

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