Sears Creates a New Opening into Social Network Marketing

Last Updated Jul 2, 2009 9:00 AM EDT

Sears Holding announcements about the advance of its web-based marketing strategy have followed fast and furious of late and now the company has announced that it will become the first major retailer to launch the Open ID platform â€" one that permits users to establish a single screen name for identification across web sites -- for the MySears and MyKmart communities it has been building online.

According to Sears Holding spokesman Tom Aiello, launching the OpenID platform is the first part of a two-phase initiative to establish MySears and MyKmart as adjuncts to popular social networks. He said:

It's part of a bigger, long-term vision. Phase one basically enables our individual participants to use their IDs to get into the Sears communities. Phase two will enable sharing in either direction based on user permissions. That's going to include things like photos, content and product reviews they might have done on MySears and want to share with friends.
The move will connect users of Sears communities directly to social media portals Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! and MySpace. Sears communities already get a million monthly visitors, the company stated, and the social media connections can only pump that number up.

While a launch date has not yet been set, the second phase will roll out this year, Aiello said, which should put it in effect for the critical holiday season and provide the virtual ground for any number of cyber promotions.

"The beauty of OpenID is that all of those prominent portals people have known and grown to trust make it easier for users to get into one of the Sears communities," Aiello said.

In announcing the OpenID adoption, Rob Harles, Sears vice president of community, said the technology "helps simplify our customers' online experience and ultimately helps us meet our goal of ensuring our customers have the most efficient shopping experience possible."

MySears and MyKmart were designed to provide consumers with a methods of sharing information about products offered by the chains and to expedite purchasing decisions. Visitors can, as noted, write product reviews and post comments on the reviews of others as well as participate in discussion boards, post ideas for community vote and check out special offers and coupons provided as a reward for their participation in the community.

Yet, online is only one element of an evolving Sears multi-channel selling strategy. The company also has been linking its web and store operations through programs such as Shop Your Way, which puts web kiosks in stores, and Sears2go, which facilitates purchasing over mobile phones. Aiello previously told Bnet that a range of Sears cyber experiments had been coalescing into a more clearly defined marketing strategy over the past year and those would support the multi-channel selling proposition.

The OpenID announcement makes it more apparent that Sears plans to develop a social network hub that will link store, Internet and mobile initiatives with the goal of connecting customers more intimately with the retailer, in a virtual kind of way.