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One-On-One With Sears' E-Commerce Head Imran Jooma

11/17/2013 07:00:00 PM Eastern

HOFFMAN ESTATES, ILL. — Much of Sears Holdings’ focus under chairman/CEO Eddie Lampert has been online, as the retailer beefed up its web and mobile sites, expanded its e-commerce assortment, enhanced its loyalty program and sharpened its multichannel capabilities.

The person responsible for those functions and more is Imran Jooma, a corporate executive VP and president of marketing, online, pricing and financial services.

TWICE recently caught up with Jooma in advance of the all-important holiday selling season to see where Sears.com and Kmart.com stand.

TWICE: What kind of growth has Sears Holdings experienced?

Imran Jooma, Sears Holdings: Online business on Sears.com and Kmart.com grew 20 percent over the prior year second quarter as Sears Holdings continued its evolution into a member-centric organization that offers its Shop Your Way [loyalty program] members free rewards and shopping perks.

In addition, in just over three years we’ve grown Sears Marketplace to include more than 100 million products from third-party sellers, and will continue to work with sellers to provide members and customers with “endless aisles” of popular products like electronics, lawn and garden equipment, home goods, toys and games, outdoor living items, fitness equipment, jewelry and tools at a wide variety of price ranges.

TWICE: Is the e-commerce function outsourced or in-house?

Jooma: We have invested significantly in our online and mobile e-commerce platforms, our Shop Your Way membership program, and the technology needed to support these initiatives. Our focus continues to be on our members, core customers, and finding ways to provide them value and convenience through integrated retail.

We have built an internal team of best-in- class leaders from companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Motorola and Nokia whose focus is to make the member experience better through the innovative use of technology, whether it be online, via tablets, apps, mobile or integrated in-store experiences. The goal is building lasting relationships with members, not just transactions. We have proven success with our integrated retail strategy; in fact half of our online business is coming from “cross-channel” transactions that allow you to buy online and pick up in-store, and order in store and ship to home.

TWICE: Is there a distinction any longer between in-store and online inventory?

Jooma: When you combine the capabilities of our stores with the broad assortment of products that we have available online through Sears Marketplace, we’ve created an endless aisle of products to enable our members to find everything they need in one convenient place. We’ve blurred the four walls of our stores. If our members can’t find the items they need in a store, they can order through the terminals or tablets in store and have them delivered to their homes.

TWICE: Delivery time has become the next online battleground after pricing. How do Sears and Kmart rate?

Jooma: We leverage our supply-chain capabilities to find the inventory across all our locations, including our stores and our warehouses, and get it shipped to our members as quickly as possible. We have the assets to establish a market-leading two-day, next-day or same-day capability by leveraging select current store locations and warehouses to serve as Market Delivery Centers. We’re focused on serving, delighting and engaging our members while they shop their way.

TWICE: When was the last major site redesign?

Jooma: Sears continuously explores smart ways to offer more e-commerce options that make the shopping experience convenient and rewarding for our Shop Your Way members. For example, we recently launched an exclusive deals page, Deal Hei$t, which gives members access to flash sales on Sears Marketplace items, while also giving third-party vendors more access to customers and marketing opportunities.

TWICE: How does the m-commerce site differ?

Jooma: Mobile is critical to our integrated retail strategy. As a leading mobile retailer, we are laser-focused on improving our mobile offerings to members every day.

The mobile web experience is currently undergoing a refresh that has made the experience more interactive with a modern, cleaner look. A few of the new mobile web capabilities include: curbside pick-up, mobile checkout, online and mobile layaway payments, personalized offers via geo location tracking, and eCoupons, which gives members the ability to view, clip and automatically redeem coupons both online and in store across multiple points.

TWICE: You mentioned cross-channel transactions. What other multichannel functionality does Sears Holdings offer?

Jooma: Sears pioneered buy online, pick up in-store 12 years ago. Since 2001, Sears has expanded its capabilities to include free store pick-up guaranteed in five minutes or less; curbside pick-up — just text us your parking spot number and an associate will bring your order right to your car; third-party pickup — buy what you need online and have someone else pick up your order; and pay in store, giving Kmart shoppers the flexibility to reserve items online, pay at their local Kmart store, and pick up the item onsite if available.

TWICE: How has the site evolved to accommodate the Shop Your Way loyalty program?

Jooma: Sears Holdings is becoming a membership company — members of our Shop Your Way program have recently surpassed 60 percent of our transactions and sales, and we know that members buy more, spend more and visit us more often. Shop Your Way is a free, members-only program and shopping community that offers rewards, personalized deals, product reviews and services like e-coupons and e-receipts for faster returns and exchanges in five minutes or less, guaranteed. It creates new convenience for shoppers by connecting all of the ways to shop — in store, at home, online and by phone. Members earn points for purchases that can be redeemed with other Shop Your Way partners like Kmart, Sears and Lands’ End.

However, Shop Your Way is more than a loyalty program. It transforms customer transactions into relationships and allows us to know our Members better and to serve them better no matter where they shop.

For example, we have built a member-only coupon experience where members can find coupons, load them to their membership account and redeem them in any channel they prefer. The experience is simple, hassle-free and completely digital.