Interview with David Friedman, president of marketing at Sears Holdings

“E-tailing is a big part of what retail is today,” says David Friedman, president, marketing at Sears Holdings Corp. He should know: Friedman, who joined the retailer in September 2010, is the former president, Americas, of interactive marketing agency Razorfish. He marked his first holiday shopping season by leading multichannel marketing efforts for the parent company of Kmart and Sears and spoke to Direct Marketing News (DMN) about how the online and offline worlds meet in retail.

Direct Marketing News: Online-only retailers have a cost advantage in not having physical locations, but are there built-in advantages to being a multi-channel retailer?

David Friedman (Sears): We feel that the combination of having a big online presence combined with the stores is actually more powerful than either of these independently.

What we’ve seen particularly in the last year are customers researching more online, particularly for big-ticket items. We see them go online, do their research, make their choices, but they don’t necessarily want to wait for it, or they don’t want to pay for the shipping — particularly for the larger items. So they’re doing their research, they’re going to and they’re buying and going to their Sears or Kmart store and picking up the same day.

DMN: As you expand your e-commerce functions with sites such as the Sears Marketplace, does your advertising spending have to shift online as well?

Friedman: It’s no secret that customers have been moving a lot of their media consumption from more traditional channels like TV and newspapers to online. We’re trying to follow our customers and make sure we are communicating with them in the places where they already go to and the places they are interested in. We expect digital communications to grow substantially.

That’s a journey that has several more years before it will play out. Still today, more of our money is spent on the traditional channels, but I expect that will evolve over the next several years.

DMN: Is the growing market share of e-commerce accelerating the process of moving your marketing efforts online? 

Friedman: As that becomes a bigger part of our business, we promote that business more actively, but it’s more than that.

We are seeing that communications with customers online — whether that is online advertising or search — actually influence what happens in the store. She may make the decision in-store, but it’s being influenced by what she researched online. So being there when she’s making that set of decisions is critical.

That sort of connection we’re seeing — between what’s happening on the circular, mobile, online and in-store — we feel that kind of shopping model is going to become very important going forward.

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