“There’s a fundamental shift going on with how people use and interact with the Internet,” said Sears mobile innovations team leader Thomas Emmons. “As more and more devices come out and they get better, we will see a much bigger push into this. We think there’s a strong future in this and that’s why we got involved.”
Smartphones with Internet browsing capabilities are estimated to comprise 6 to 11 percent of the cell phone market in the U.S. Apple’s iPhone 3G was the most popular cell phone sold in the third quarter, surpassing the BlackBerry and Razr, according to the research firm The NPD Group. The regular Sears site experienced a “marked increase” in visits from mobile device users, particularly the iPhone, in September, Emmons said. “If you’re marketing to people who read 85 percent of their e-mails on a BlackBerry, and you don’t have a good mobile site, you’re losing that customer,” he said.
The site is simpler than the regular online store, to make it easier for people to get in and out and buy something quickly. “People don’t spend hours browsing on a mobile Web site,” Emmons said. “They are interested in buying products.”
Sears started with merchandise important for the holiday season, but will gradually add the full assortment online next year. Shoppers can check out as “guests” or use information already in their Sears account. The site works on hundreds of devices, and shoppers can specify they want to pick up an item in the store or have it shipped. A text message alerts the shopper when the item is ready to be picked up.
Sears plans to add a fun holiday application specially designed for the iPhone this year.
Other retailers who offer shopping by phone include SVC and Amazon. Net-a-porter said it hopes to have a mobile store out as early as February.