Facebook Pinterest Search Icon SourcingJournal_horiz Tumbler Twitter Shape photo-camera graph-trend Shape latest-news icon / user

Stop Apologizing, Start Listening: What JC Penney Can Learn from Sears

Two failing retailers, two rescue operations, and two YouTube videos. The recent declines of Sears and JC Penney inevitably invite comparison–both have faced sinking sales, plummeting share prices, and consumer apathy in the era of e-commerce. But while Penney has dropped to its knees (check out their apology video, which urges customers to “Come back to JC Penney!” here), Sears is taking up the offensive, wooing customers with a series of innovations.

Most controversially, Sears has opened their online Marketplace to third party sellers–which means that rival retailers can now directly compete with Sears for customers, and that shoppers can search for items that Sears doesn’t even sell.

It’s a risky move, but Imran Jooma, VP of Sears’ online division, told reporters, “We believe that by providing customers with more products to choose from, along with the ability to compare offers for the same item across other sellers, our customers will be better informed to make the best decision for themselves.”

Sears has the people power and the products to a become a major player in e-commerce, but if it hopes to compete with online sellers like Amazon.com and Ebay, it’s clear that the company has a lot of work to do. In February, Sears Marketplace placed last in a list of 16 online marketplaces ranked by EcommerceBytes, which asked 11,500  online sellers to rate various marketplaces by profitability, customer service, communication, and ease of use.

Member Assist, another buzzworthy new Sears feature, is a mobile app which allows customers to communicate directly with store associates. Sears Chairman and Chief Executive Eddie Lampert told MarketWatch that half of its online business comes from customers who buy online and pick up in-store, or who order in-store and have products shipped to their homes.

The company’s  “Ship my Pants” ad, a toilet-humor driven video which touts Kmart’s free online shipping, has generated more than 20 million YouTube views. Compare this to JC Penney’s apology video, which has been viewed under 1,000 times.

Of course, it’s logical that JC Penney would shy away from big changes–the company is still reeling from the fallout of former CEO Ron Johnson’s numerous, dramatic, and occasionally hair-brained “innovations.” Still, JCP should take a page from Sears’ book: apology videos don’t win customers back, but superior innovations–those that actually respond to customer needs–do.


More from our brands