By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sears Holdings has moved mobile commerce (m-commerce) one step further with the development of a “personal shopper” application for the iPhone mobile digital device.
The new application adds the interactive, human element of a shopping experience to m-commerce search functionality by layering live support and personal service over the technology of the iPhone.
Specifically, the personal shopper app allows customers to take a picture of the desired product from anywhere, which then gets sent immediately to a team of “expert shoppers.” The expert shoppers then work to find the item, and contact the customer via phone or email.
Additionally, the application offers an option to call in a shopping request rather than send a photo. This capability allows customers to get personal attention and service from a “personal shopper agent” who will help them locate their desired product whenever and wherever they think of it.
While competitive e-commerce offerings match products based only on technology, the Sears application uniquely fuses technology and expert shoppers, the company said.
“Sears is continuing to help customers find all the things they need online in a truly revolutionary way,” said Imran Jooma, online senior VP at Sears Holdings. “We are one of the first retailers to fuse the right kind of technologies with our award-winning service [to] help our customers find all that they looking for.”
Sears introduced the app last month, before the peak of the holiday selling season.
The company, which operates the Sears and Kmart retail chains, described the personal shopper offering as an extension of its multichannel ShopYourWay campaign and its “best-in-class mobile commerce platform.”
The multichannel offering includes an enhanced Sears.com, which continues to evolve its online product assortment while providing easy-to-use functionality, Sears said.
M-commerce is becoming an increasingly important selling tool for consumers and retailers. Indeed, mobile phone Web traffic to retail and comparison-shopping sites increased 12-fold on Black Friday and more than doubled on Cyber Monday, according to Chicago-based Novarra, which provides m-commerce platforms for Amazon.com, Best Buy, Sears, Target and Walmart. Novarra said Black Friday page views via mobile rose 792 percent for BestBuy.com, 740 percent for Walmart.com, and 492 percent for Sears.com the day after Thanksgiving.
Crutchfield, which launched its own m-commerce platform last month with New York-based Usablenet, said visits to its Web site from mobile phones had risen steadily over the preceding 12 months. “We felt we needed to act now to optimize the mobile site experience for this growing segment of our customers,” according to Todd Cabell, the retailer's senior manager of Web strategy.
But while better serving customers with m-commerce functions such as store and inventory locators, retailers also risk losing sales through the latest generation of comparison-shopping apps, some of which will search for the lowest-priced product in a given area based on a bar code photo taken in a store by a consumer with his mobile phone.
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