In October, Sears Canada To Try New E-Commerce Tactic

The time-honored E-Commerce recommendation tactic ("Other customers who purchased that also bought this") is not without its efficiency flaws. It takes a lot of keystrokes and can only deal with one product at a time. It also often veers the customer off in unintended directions, with someone checking out microwaves—four referral paths later—finding himself looking at options for lawnmower replacement parts. Sears Canada thinks it may have a better approach, and the chain plans on unveiling it in mid-October—in time for this year's holiday shoppers.

The idea is to create experience pages for products that are typically linked with a large number of related products, such as school supplies, a home entertainment system or a backyard grill. The details are still being fine-tuned, but the idea could be a page with a list of all recommended items, each with its own checkbox. One keystroke could purchase the whole package, or selected items could be removed or their quantities changed.

"We have had a very templated approach up to now," said one IT person working on the rollout. "You come to our site right now and you need to equip your kid for school. You might need a backpack, clothing, perhaps a desk. You'd search for each of those products individually, find the products, add them to your cart and away you go."

The Sears Canada team wanted to create a better way for purchases that need to be grouped anyway. "We're still playing with some of the details. I don't know that it's going to stay at one page. It might be three or four pages," but the goal is "to keep it simple enough."

There is a lot of wisdom in this approach, and it would be especially helpful for first-time buyers. Those newbies might very well appreciate not having to do all the homework to determine everything that is typically needed with such a purchase. Think of a first-time parent dealing with a five-year-old about to start school. Or someone buying a gas grill for the first time, who might have no idea of the need for a grill brush, two pairs of ultra-long tongs (one for the uncooked food and one for the cooked) and an extra fuel container.

The best part, though, is the accelerated speed of such package purchases, not to mention the increased margin. Consumers are likely to fill in the forgotten-accessory-gap by running to a local store (and quite possibly not the local Sears), rather than ordering online again.