This BrandWeek piece details the Sears effort and it also brings up the teen-focused Wal-Mart effort from a few years ago, called The Hub. Bentonville pulled the plug on that site in barely 10 weeks. But it was only last year that Starbucks launched its own customer site, although it was pretty much limited to "telling Starbucks what it can do to get more of your money." It's sort of like a death row program, where condemned inmates can ride lifecycle machines to generate enough power to run the electric chair.
Sears.com is quietly getting into the social networking space. Well, not quite. Sears' effort, done under the MySears.com banner and claiming more than 200,000 registered users, is more of a combo FAQ, suggestion box and interactive customer service site. This is a critical distinction because of a social site is one where the consumers dictate the topics and the exchanges. A retail giant landlord can quietly observe and follow where customers go or it can try and lead.