Sears has partnered with America Online in the latest alliance between a national retailer and a major ISP.
The cross marketing agreement, announced this week, calls for Sears to sell AOL's services in all of its 858 full-line stores and for AOL to make Sears' products and services available to its nearly 24 million members.
In addition, the companies plan to develop and sell broadband access and installation, as well as an assortment of Internet-enabled devices and appliances.
For its part, AOL is developing a special co-branded edition of its software, due out during the second half of the year, that will include special Sears offers and links to sears.com and other Sears interactive sites. AOL will also promote Sears' e-commerce product categories -- which will soon include consumer electronics in addition to major appliances -- on all of its online properties including CompuServe, Netscape Netcenter, Digital City and the Shop@ e-commerce platform. Sears Card holders will also be able to pay their bills and review their statements via their AOL accounts.
In turn, Sears will "prominently feature" displays of AOL interactive products and services in dedicated retail space at all full-line locations, and will promote AOL and its in-store offerings in its advertising, marketing and promotional campaigns.
Besides selling broadband services and Internet-accessible products, the partners also plan to hold live in-store demonstrations of broadband technology and to develop new broadband home improvement content as the market develops.
"This is a critical step for both companies to serve the growing Internet needs of our combined and growing customer bases," said Sears CEO Arthur Martinez. "Our agreement with AOL is the latest in a series of interactive alliances we have announced this year, as we roll out our robust online strategy." Indeed, over the past 12 weeks Sears revealed that it is in discussions with Sun Microsystems to develop what it calls "the Internet-connected home of the future," and has announced the creation of an online business-to-business buying service, GlobalNetXchange, in collaboration with Oracle and Carrefour.
Sears is the third major U.S. retailer to forge an ISP alliance with AOL since December. The world's largest ISP previously announced a comparable partnership with Circuit City, and has partnered with Wal-Mart to create a new, co-branded Internet access business.