Sears Looks to Piggyback on Others’ Book Discounts

Discussion
Oct 21, 2009
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Walmart.com
and Target.com’s decisions to offer big discounts on expected best sellers
before they are in-stock has major ramifications for Amazon and others
in the book business.

Sears doesn’t
want to get into a price competition with stronger competitors so it’s
taking a unique tack. It’s encouraging consumers to buy cheap books from
elsewhere and then come to the Sears website to receive a credit of up
to $9 toward a purchase of $45 or more.

After
buying an eligible book on the websites of either Amazon, Sears,
Target or Walmart, consumers email their receipt to readamerica@customerservice.sears.com
to get their discount.

“The $9 credit
can be used at Sears.com on the purchase of any items, so it’s like getting
the books for free,” said Imran Jooma, senior vice president for online
at Sears Holdings, in a press release. “We believe this program will
benefit the thousands of customers who buy books every day by putting
more money into their pockets.”

Discussion
Questions: What do you think of the Sears.com program to “reward” consumers
who make book purchases on other sites? Will this approach help Sears’
price image? Does it make more sense for Sears.com than just lowering
pre-order prices on expected best sellers itself?

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16 Comments on "Sears Looks to Piggyback on Others’ Book Discounts"


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Dave Wendland
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

I love this. If you can’t “join ’em, beat ’em!” This is one of the most innovative retail programs that I have seen and provides a platform for Sears Holding to recapture some customers on purchases to support their core business. I’ll be anxious to see how this is promoted, how well it resonates with consumers and what response Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com deploy.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

I think Sears or any other similar high-priced retailer would be happy to offer a $9 discount on purchases of $45 or more. The most they would have to discount is 20%. I don’t think it will have any meaningful impact.

Think about it; what if Sears and Kmart simply told the entire world they are lowering all their prices by 20%? Do you think anyone would care? Of course not; Walmart would still be cheaper and most consumers know that. Sears and Kmart have been conditioning consumers for years to stay away from their stores because of empty or tricky-worded gimmicks. Remember, it was only just recently they came up with a Christmas club that paid a whopping 3%. Or the lay-away plan at Kmart. Or they will give you a break if you lose your job. Just think, there is actually someone working at Sears that gets paid to come up with this stuff.

Rajesh Pillai
Guest
Rajesh Pillai
11 years 6 months ago

Instead of being critical all the time, sometimes you should acknowledge a good idea when you see one. This is just a classic way of piggybacking on the hype created by other retailers without paying the price. Sometimes when you are not as powerful as the others, you cannot afford to throw away money in ego battles. Instead, you need to come up with innovative schemes like these, and hats off to them for that.

Liz Crawford
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

Using other retailers’ promotions to drive shoppers to your site is brilliant. To me, this is the heart of the news. If Sears captures purchasers away from Amazon in categories other than books, then it worked!

Regarding the level of discount: people aren’t entirely rational creatures economically (or any other way for that matter). We know this. Getting a $9 coupon for a purchase I have already made is terrific. It feels like “free” money.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
11 years 6 months ago
I am really impressed with Sears and the approach they are taking. My only suggestion would have been to only include Amazon in the program, since they do not compete directly with Sears in a brick and mortar format. Other than that, I think it is one of the best marketing ideas I have seen in awhile. Several retailers have lost their shirt when they tried to compete with Walmart on price. Although an important one, price is not the only decision point for the consumer. Service, quality, experience, and convenience all play a part. Rather than compete on price, Sears is taking advantage of all the free publicity around the book wars to drive traffic to their site and store. A 20% discount on merchandise is something they do all the time. This is just a new way for consumers to see the savings. I could see this morphing into other great programs that would drive traffic to Sears private-label brands, including Craftsman (since they are only available at Sears, this creates a natural… Read more »
Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

This is a very creative promotion. While Sears’ rivals are locking in a price war over books, Sears takes the tack that it will reward everyone. This won’t necessarily get many more people to shop at Sears, but it will get consumers to consider it. After all, if you can have a free $9 credit at Sears every time you buy a book, why not take advantage of it?

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 6 months ago

Interesting way of recouping the customer but this is Sears we are talking about. I’m staying on the sidelines until I see some reviews on this promotion. I honestly don’t think they can execute it effectively.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
11 years 6 months ago

I think this is one of the most ridiculous promotional approaches I’ve ever heard of. You want me to buy elsewhere but then remember to email you my receipt so you can send me a voucher to come to your store (that I never go to normally) to save up to 20% that I could save somewhere else anyway?

In an age where everything is being made exponentially simpler, Sears blazes a trail to complexity.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

Who cares if the promotion works or not? It is all about buzz and if the media or the blogger’s pick up the idea and give it coverage, Sears will have come out the winner.

This is the first real, innovative thinking to come out of Sears in a long time.

Tom McGoldrick
Guest
Tom McGoldrick
11 years 6 months ago

I don’t know if this will drive much traffic to their site but I love the fact that Sears is trying something new and creative. I am glad to see someone coming out with something other than a “me too” discount. It is the most creative thing I have seen from Sears in years. It will generate good publicity (we are talking about it), has a nice pugnacious feel to it and won’t cost them much.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

This is a nice, creative promotion. But, it will do nothing to help with Sears’ problems. Unfortunately, when situations get as bad as with Sears, companies tend to try to turn around macro problems with micro promotions. This is a very common strategy of failure.

There is likely no downside except a waste of time and money to accomplish very little. Sears (and Sears.com) should be focusing on establishing a position in the consumer’s mind that is not in the same realm as either Walmart or Amazon. While a win for Sears may be impossible at this point, certainly a loss is assured if Sears is compared in any way in the shopper’s mind to the brick and mortar and online retailing leaders.

James Tenser
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

Wow. Did anybody else here in RW know that Sears.com even sold books? I confess I did not, until I read about this promotion this morning and perused the site.

So on at least one level, the promotion has already worked on me. Then again, I didn’t seriously consider buying anything.

I’d give Sears.com points for innovative thinking on this promotion, but I’d have to take away some for its reactive modality. That is, this promotion can only influence shoppers who have already depleted their wallets at a competitor’s site.

On the plus side, it’s a way to get proven online shoppers to try an alternative value option. If the promotion drives new customer acquisition at Sears.com, then the profit on the initial sale may be of secondary importance compared with the opportunity to establish a customer relationship.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

It’s genius. Costs them nothing in stocking books that they might or might not otherwise sell but gets customers in. Always assuming, of course, that Sears has anything at all that they want to buy and are willing to spend $45 to get back their $9. If finding things to buy is a stretch then it will all fall flat but full marks for trying.

Mike Romano
Guest
Mike Romano
11 years 6 months ago

BOOKS? What am I missing here? I can understand Amazon, but why are retailers wasting precious time, focus, and resources getting sucked into low-margin book wars? Lots of effort for a thin margin product that has an even thinner customer segment–ESPECIALLY at Walmart and Sears! Good grief. How about delivering some more significant value to the greater consumer who shops your stores, rather than get caught up in book bargain machismo.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

If these retailers are going to draw a strong hand, and capture a fair share of the pots in this poker game, they have to start with a STRONG BRAND and BELIEF among consumers. Otherwise, they are just screaming “me-too” pricing. That’s not going to lead them to the final table.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 6 months ago

This seems a little too clever by half to me. As simple as the promotion sounds, I think it might be confusing to customers. Buy something elsewhere, get a coupon here? Huh? And as pointed out above, the discount maxes out at 20%, which hardly moves anybody these days.

That said, Sears does deserve credit for being aggressive and thinking outside of the box. I have been impressed with the TV ad campaign. As I’ve said before when we’ve discussed Sears, they are trying but they have a big hill to climb to once again become really relevant.

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