Sears Betting Its Future on Technology
Back in February of last year when Sears Holdings named Lou D’Ambrosio as its new chief executive, it was clear that the decision was made because of his background in technology.
"We were determined to find a leader with information and technology experience who could catalyze the transformation of our portfolio of businesses in the context of the evolution of the retail industry that is occurring more broadly," said Edward Lampert, chairman of Sears Holdings, in a statement at the time.
Mr. D’Ambrosio, a former executive at IBM and Avaya, seemed a good match for Mr. Lampert even if many questioned whether he had the retail instincts to turn Sears and Kmart around. Many contend that the problems at the company have much more to do with rundown stores, poor customer service and a variety of other basic retailing issues.
Now in a Wall Street Journal article Mr. D’Ambrosio reveals that his plan to get Sears turned around involves more effective use of customer-facing technology and by mining data collected from the company’s Shop Your Way Rewards program to gain consumer insights.
One example, similar to what Neiman Marcus is doing with its NM Service, is having customers use their mobile phones to check in at Sears. Associates on the floor can then use GPS tracking to find the customers in the store and offer timely assistance.
Mr. D’Ambrosio told the Journal that while Sears is often criticized for failing to invest in its stores, critics are not taking into account millions in investments in store-level and digital technology.
More effective use of the Shop You Way Rewards data is seen as a positive step, although whether Sears is more adept at mining its data than competitors remains to be seen.
"A good loyalty program, which gives a company better intelligence about what its best customers really want, can be a strategic advantage," Jim Sullivan, a partner at Colloquy, told the Journal. "But it’s a truism in our business that even the best loyalty programs can’t fix a fundamentally broken brand."
- Sears Names CEO – RetailWire
- App Lets Neiman Marcus Know When Best Customers Arrive – RetailWire
- The Plan to Rescue Sears – The Wall Street Journal
Discussion Questions: Can customer-facing technology and insights gained from its loyalty program help get Sears Holdings turned around? Of the technology-based initiatives at Sears, which do you find most promising?