Preface : There’s a TL;DR for this tome.
Right then. First off, let me tell you about an interesting little thing I noticed when applying for a “Sears Rewards” card online this last weekend. (More on my Sears online experience in a bit).
Midway down the rewards application, after the information about me and my basic stats, I saw this…
Wow. Welcome to the new “targeted social advertising” era.
It really was only a matter of time before large companies realized the Twitter and Facebook demographics were ripe for harvesting. So why not give a special offer to those who have a built-in listener base? It makes sense, really.
If I wanted to reach 301 people in one shot, what better way than to send a “freebie” or “exclusive message” to someone with a built-in following? Bloggers are always looking for content, and a “hey check out what I got from Sears” post or “hey look at what Sears just told me is coming up” post is pretty good material to build on. Sears wins for getting their message out directly to more people than old fashioned print media does anymore, and the bloggers win by getting access to new and unreleased material before it goes mainstream. Tying it into their in-house rewards questionnaire is just icing on the cake.
I replied honestly to the questionnaire, but I wonder how many more offers the “over 300” followers will get? And, just as important, I wonder if Sears is actually going to parse the “over 300” crowd for their “ideal” demographic and not just “carpet bomb” everyone who has a large following in the hopes they suddenly become converts?
Sending a new Black and Decker toolkit or a Sears-exclusive appliance to Click and Clack on NPR’s Car Talk or to any of the Auto or Car blog specific sites out there would be genius.
Best of luck, Sears. Congratulations on being the first site I’ve come across to go fishing in the big new ocean of fully connected customers!
I do expect other “top 100” companies to follow suit, though. Expect more “who do you know” kinds of questions for rewards sites, and look for more “now hiring : social media integration specialists” in the future.
So, having said all that, let me tell you about my experience shopping online with Sears this last weekend.
This Sunday I wanted to purchase a Kenmore Elite Stainless Steel 16.7 cu. ft. Freezerless Refrigerator (4472) Sears Item# 04644723000 | Model# 44723, a Kenmore Elite Stainless Steel 16.7 cu. ft. Upright Freezer (4473) Sears Item# 04644733000 | Model# 44733, and the Kenmore Stainless Steel Stainless Steel Trim Kit Sears Item# 04604470000 | Model# DUOTRIMKIT online. The total for everything was around $2.5k after delivery and taxes.
At the checkout, I was keying in my AmX card when I noticed there was a small icon next to payment type that said “Don’t Have A Sears Card? APPLY NOW.”
I thought, hey, if I apply for a Sears card I can get in on their 12 months interest free plan! Awesome! Instead of one payment next month, I can break it down into two or three payments interest free!
So I clicked on the APPLY NOW icon, and after putting in the usual credit application sorts of info, I was approved for the Sears card. I went ahead and signed up for online management of the card through Citibank and was referred back to Sears checkout. The whole application and management process was ridiculously easy.
Back at the Sears online checkout window I selected under “payment type” the “Sears Card” option. That immediately prompted me for the Sears credit card number and security code on the back of the Sears card.
Uh, guys? I don’t have the card security code or the full Sears card number because I applied for the Sears card online.
I logged into the online management of the Sears card through Citibank and looked for the full card number and security code, only to find out that the card was going to be mailed to me and I would have to wait two to three weeks to get the Sears card in the mail and activate it.
I went back to the Sears site, and clicked on the top icon for a Sears rep to “Call Me”.
In less than a minute, my home phone rang and I was connected to a very professional and courteous Sears representative who confirmed, in just seconds, what I suspected. The “APPLY NOW” icon? The customer service rep was careful not to agree with my statement that it was “misleading”, but did say it was indeed “somewhat confusing”. When you APPLY NOW for a Sears card, you can’t use the credit card until you actually receive it in the mail. Only then, after you activate it, will it function online.
I said “thank you” and decided I can wait two weeks to break up the payments for now. But Sears missed out on a $2.5k weekend purchase by not fully integrating their commerce division with their sales department, and that really is just bad design.
And now it’s time for the “insult to injury” round!
While I was at the Sears site, I saw there was a “Sears Rewards” section, where you can sign up and get a “rewards” card that applies money you spend to points you can earn to get more stuff. It sounded like a good deal, so I signed up for it.
The moment I pressed ENTER on the “Sears Rewards” site, I was given a temporary rewards number that I could print out and use immediately.
Hey Sears? Put whoever designed the Rewards section in charge of the Credit/Finance department. I would have loved to have bought those appliances this last Sunday so I could have had them in my home by Wednesday. Why not issue a “temporary” credit card number that people can immediately online when they are approved for a Sears card? You could make the temporary credit card a “disposable” number like Citibank and AmX give out to their customers, and the number would expire upon receipt of the “real” card. You can even make it so that it is only for a fraction of the total available amount on the “real” card for extra security. I bet you would get many more online purchases if you guys just slightly updated your systems integration.
The rest of the Sears site was top notch. Immediate callback from customer service. Good “flow” for the website. Great “related items” queries. Outstanding “rewards” setup/turnaround.
Oh, and Sears? One more thing. You might want to get on the list of who is buying new homes and send them a “welcome” packet in the mail with a $10 or $20 off a “home appliance” coupon and some other “welcome to your new home” material. Best Buy sent me a similar packet and I purchased a brand new Samsung HE washer and dryer from them late last year because of it! Don’t forget the old school methods!
TL;DR : Sears is ahead of the curve in their social marketing reach, but they need to integrate their credit approval department with their online sales site. Everything else was great.
EDIT 10:56 CST: Spelling & Formatting.