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Sears Outlet exec: Mobile search results in higher in-store traffic

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March 25, 2016

Sears Outlet stores rely heavily on mobile search

Sears Outlet stores rely heavily on mobile search

NEW YORK – A Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores executive at the Mobile Marketing Association’s Mobile Location Leadership Forum revealed that local discoverability is one of the company’s top uses of mobile, as four in five local mobile searches culminate in a purchase.

During the “Putting the Customer First in Today’s Mobile World” session, the executive highlighted three key pillars that Sears Outlet’s customer-first initiatives encompass: local discoverability, solving a need with mobile and bolstering the customer experience. The brand, which is a publicly traded offshoot from Sears Holdings Corporation, ensures that mobile users can easily find locations at which desired big-ticket items are sold, proving that retailers must collaborate with location management platforms in order to maximize potential sales from nearby mobile searches.

“Consumers shop products first, and they pick their retail brand second,” said David Buckley, chief marketing officer and vice president of ecommerce at Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores.

Considering decision-making factors
When crafting its mobile strategy, Sears Outlet made sure to consider any opposition factors facing consumers researching big-ticket retail items, such as a new refrigerator or washing machine. Proximity, price and prior experience with a brand were found to be the top factors, prompting Sears Outlet to revamp its current offerings with these in mind.

“Smartphones have changed fundamentally how people shop,” Mr. Buckley said.

According to recent data from Google, 88 percent of near-me searches are now happening on mobile devices. Meanwhile, four out of five local mobile searches result in a purchase, underscoring the paramount importance of leveraging this tactic to drive in-store traffic and sales.

Since many of Sears Outlet’s stores are not found in traditional shopping centers, the brand was forced to optimize its search results to showcase accurate information.

The retailer joined forces with Yext’s location management platform, a partnership that subsequently increased the number of search listings and enhanced branded content by showing store photos and business descriptions.

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Sears Outlet stores, typically located in strip malls, drive in-store traffic via mobile

“We saw results not just in Yahoo, but in all the major platforms where we were driving a lot more impressions by search,” Mr. Buckley said.

Sears Outlet experienced a 237 percent uptick in search impressions, as well as a click-through rate of 5.1 percent.

For Sears Outlet, fueling in-store traffic via mobile is a must-have strategy. Shoppers are visiting bricks-and-mortar locations half as often as in previous times, but are spending more when they do.

“Every footstep in retail is worth more,” Mr. Buckley said.

The brand also conducted research to uncover what information mobile consumers were searching for most. Seventy-five percent are interested to find out the price of their desired item in a nearby store, while 74 percent want to know whether the product in question is in stock.

Meanwhile, 66 percent are most interested in the location of the closest store carrying the item, and 63 percent are searching for details about local stores, such as their hours of business.

The right shopping ads
Sears Outlet has regularly used Google shopping ads for its ecommerce business, but has recently been taking advantage of local Google inventory ads, which are more suitable for mobile users.

Local Google inventory ads display the exact location of the nearest store carrying the desired product. For example, if an individual is looking for a new Kenmore refrigerator, the local ad will show online retailers carrying the item, as well as nearby Sears locations that have it in stock.

The item’s price at all of these retailers will also be shown, enabling customers to engage in comparison pricing.

When consumers click on the specific ad, they will see product details and related items, which gives retailers additional opportunities to inspire purchases.

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Sears Outlet updated all search listing to include accurate store information

Sears Outlet saw a 122 percent lift in in-store visits after leveraging these ads.

The brand also monitors its online reviews and responds to customers’ concerns on Facebook. It ensures it treats digital reviews in the same manner it does in-store feedback.

The company’s main offshoot, Sears Holdings Corporation, has been relying on mobile to fuel a barrage of sales on digital platforms by providing real value to shoppers.

Last fall, Sears pushed sales for home improvement and appliance services with a new dynamic Web site that emphasized mobile utility and supported the retailer’s reputation as a leader in this segment (see story).

Sears also recently updated its mobile app with the ability to receive alerts on specials before they are available more broadly and scan in-store items to check online inventory, highlighting how brands can leverage mobile to provide added value to loyal shoppers (see story).

Ultimately, mobile has transformed Sears Outlet’s new customer acquisition tactics.

“[Mobile] has more changed how we drive customers [in-store] than changed our supply strategy,” Mr. Buckley said.

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Alex Samuely is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. Reach her at alex@mobilemarketer.com.

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