January marked the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, with much of the tradeshow’s focus on living in an increasingly connected world. For the second year, Ryan Ciovacco, Sears’ president of Consumer Electronics and Connected Solutions, sat down with other industry experts at a roundtable sponsored by TWICE magazine to discuss everything from mobile trends and 4K/Ultra HD televisions, to home automation and emerging technology. Participants in the roundtable included leaders from Amazon, BrandsMart USA, Starpower, ProSource and The NPD Group.
We caught up with Ryan after the panel concluded to hear some of the highlights:
On mobile shopping
As a retailer, we’re seeing an increasing number of orders placed from mobile devices (i.e., smart phones) than from computers. With the mobile-commerce trend here to stay, I shared how mobile shopping is a critical part of our strategy so our members and customers can seamlessly manage and track their orders using the Sears app. While several panelists suggested the increase in mobile share is detrimental to brick and mortar, I argued that it helps improve our company’s overall position as a retailer that offers a variety of integrated ways to shop, such as Buy Online and Pickup in Store, In-Vehicle Pickup and Free Store Pick Up. At Sears.com (on mobile as well) we offer one of the deepest online marketplaces on the web, featuring more than 100 million items – available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, mobile’s share of Sears/Kmart online sales doubled in the past year, and more than a third of Sears/Kmart online traffic came from mobile phones – up 46 percent from last year.
On mobile layaway
I was proud to highlight that Sears and Kmart are the only retailers offering mobile, online and in-store layaway 365 days a year for any purchase amount. Unlike other layaway programs, our members can put virtually anything on layaway at Sears and Kmart. We’ve seen a great response from members who have shopped using mobile layaway so far, especially those who placed some of our hot deals on layaway during the holiday season.
On 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) TVs
The group discussed everyone’s excitement about 4K exceeding expectations during the holiday season. However, I stressed the importance of retailers helping customers navigate the potentially confusing 4k content issues: you have to do more than just have a UHD TV to view 4k content. In 2016 we believe there will be an even wider acceptance, and to meet that demand Sears Connected Solutions has a large assortment of products that are capable of streaming 4K such as the Amazon Fire TV and the Roku 4. Also, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Ultraflix and YouTube all offer 4K content and there is limited 4K content via Comcast and DirecTV with the Samsung TV app.
On Sears’ entrance into Connected Solutions
In 2015, Sears did a great job earning the reputation as the place to go for purchasing your connected devices, and with the acquisition of WallyHome we have also positioned ourselves as an innovator in the connected home space. In 2016, we’re focusing our efforts on educating members about Connected Solutions, our strengths in Home Services (i.e., product installation) and our breadth of product categories. Through our in-store displays, members are learning why Connected Solutions is important to their lives – to help them save time and money, while providing convenience and peace of mind. I also discussed the hurdles to adoption for Connected products right now (value proposition, price and complexity) and what Sears is doing to address these issues: providing education both in-store and online, and offering dedicated tech support and dedicated installation services.
On the prominent brands Sears carries
We carry award-winning, well-known brands such as Wemo, SmartThings and Honeywell. Additionally, we announced a partnership with August Lock, and acquisition of the WallyHome technology, which will allow Sears to begin expanding and creating its own connected home products. We also carry a variety of great brands in all the key categories:
- Health and Fitness – FitBit, Jawbone, Withings and Polar to name a few
- Home Monitoring and Safety – Ring, D-link, August, Craftsman, Belkin, Samsung
- Smart Home Entertainment – Samsung, Bose, Roku, Amazon Firestick, Sony, LG
- Smart Lighting and Thermostats – Phillips, Samsung, Wink, GE
On the future of Connected Solutions
The panel participants all agreed that in five years, everything will be connected. In fact, the connected home industry is one of the fastest-growing consumer electronics segments. At Sears, we are positioning our consumer electronics business to take on that pivot. We are collaborating with top-tier companies such as August and Honeywell to bring the connected experience to our members and customers. For instance, at the Sears store in San Bruno, California, we have a dedicated space of 4,000 square feet displaying how all of these connected products work together in the home. More than just consumer electronics, we are educating our members on how connected solutions products can function at home: from security, to a baby’s room, to auto and appliances. All product categories, all rooms, all departments of the store can be connected together.
On Sears’ ability to compete in the connected space
As a 130-year-old company, I shared with my fellow panelists that Sears Holdings has a rich history of delivering a quality customer experience. We are taking steps to address our performance on several levels so we can return to profitability. Our company is undergoing a transformation and Sears Connected Solutions is part of that transformation, providing members and customers with new products, services and shopping experiences that will simplify their lives, save time and money, and help them have more peace of mind.
In addition I noted that our award-winning Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands have stood for innovation, quality and great value in the American home for generations. We would not be investing in this space unless we expected to be successful.