Shop Your Way – the next Sears Roebuck & Co?

…not sure about that title, but maybe it got your attention?

Recently, Members of UX team here went to a presentation by Hugh Dubberly, presented by IIT. (Thank you both). It was one of the more impactful I’ve been to in years, and made me look at many things with a new perspective. I’ve found myself thinking about our organization (expected) and our Shop Your Way program (perhaps less expected).

The Networked Platform Revolution – Dubberly’s Talk View the presentation deck

The big bullets that stuck with me are:

  • We are in the midst of change from industrial age to information age. We (myself included) carry a lot of preconceptions about how the world (particularly the economy) works as a result.
  • Notably:
  • We are shifting from models where services support/sell a product; to models where service is the product – Dubberly calls them platforms or ecologies.
  • We are shifting from logins & profiles for every site, to unique universal manageable identity for each individual

It’s already around us:

Apple’s iPod is not just a product, but a platform, when you consider iTunes as a portal for the record labels and independent musicians to get their product on your device.  The Kindle and the iPhone are the same basic pattern.  Once that platform is open, it’s self-sustaining: creators keep using the platform to get to market, the assortment is a selling point of device purchases, which encourages device manufacture, and so on.

Gmail and Facebook have become the defacto standard login options around the web to lower barriers to signup/entry with a new company.

Google has recently made pushes to make users overtly aware of their products, reach, and that you have a single unique identity across all of them – even Google search.

These companies are all making additional forays into the physical word; which, when considered really bring credence to Dubberly’s argument: Apple’s iBeacon; Various companies are working to develop the  “category killer” of health monitoring devices, Google and Apple are working hard to be the driverless system in your car.

To be honest, I could probably spend months really studying the deck and understanding all of its implications; I probably will, and suggest you do the same.

Sears, Roebuck & Co.

At turn of 20th century, America was in the heart of the industrial age, Sears was a leader in using trains as a supply chain to get products to consumers in new markets in the western US.  Sears led again in a generation automobiles & suburbia. wikipedia

Sears was Apple or Amazon of today…so far ahead, and as a result had the capital to start many of our storied brands.
Our history wall at Hoffman estates has brands like: Kenmore, Craftsman, DieHard, Allstate

Apple’s history wall would include products like Mac, iPod, iPhone…and in light of Dubberly’s train of thought, platforms like: App Store, iTunes

Sears also claims many technology firsts in recent years: the most recent of which is in-vehicle pickup.

I was pleasantly surprised to find myself making connections between Dubberly’s points and the vision our CEO Eddie Lampert has for ShopYourWay, our membership rewards program.
We claim to be the one of the largest in world based on total numbers and over 60% of last year’s sales came from members. Internally, we mostly hear talk about “Integrated Retail”, which I think may be the immediate-term strategy due to the brick and mortar presence of our stores.

However, it the vision is much greater than a rewards program, and there is evidence:

  • Other partnerships outside of the Company – Groupon , Visa
  • Shop’in & the SYW app – Shop your way app whose vision is that you to walk into a location (not just our store) and get service tailored to you, ask for assistance on your terms; ex – ask for assistance from, or chat with a specific associate using your mobile device

It appears that Mr Lampert thinks it strategically possible due to our membership numbers and partner relationships that Shop Your Way could be the major platform for identity-driven customer experience in the brick & mortar space.


What are your thoughts? What do we need to do to platform-ize?
Apple and Nike brands are explicitly intertwined with all of their platform-ized products; is it a challenge that Sears/Kmart isn’t in the name? Or Is ShopYourWay the brand that will ultimately exist  over Sears?…or is SYW simply the same as the Walgreens rewards program?

Some more reading:

All of Eddie’s blog posts

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3 Responses to “Shop Your Way – the next Sears Roebuck & Co?”

  1. Karol Czyrka →
    March 19, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    I do think that one of the challenges is the lack of true integration across the program and the brands. We aren’t SYW everywhere, but SYW, Sears, Kmart et al. The program could grow in to a platform, but I think we have a lot more work.

  2. Bethany Lankin
    March 27, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    Excellent article, Chad.

    • Chad Cline →
      March 27, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

      Thanks Bethany!