Sears is a retail company that offers a range of products and services via brick and mortar locations and online shopping portals. Its brand focuses on offering quality proprietary brand products and in-home services in an industry that is currently led by larger retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon, the e-commerce giant that is single-handedly changing the nature of retail today. In order to stay competitive, Sears is focusing on building brand loyalty among the young target market with disposable incomeâ€”the 25-30 year old demographic; it is differentiating itself from its competitors by focusing on providing quality products and services as opposed to only discounted options. Searsâ€™s main selling point, therefore, is its quality brand productsâ€”like Kenmore and Craftsmanâ€”that appeal to homeowners, especially to new homeowners who are in a prime position to develop brand loyalty to the types of appliances and services that only Sears can offer.
Sears: Brand Analysis
This paper examines the Sears brand in the retail industry. It is organized into the following sections: Brand Profile, which describes the Sears brand; Industry, which examines the market in which Sears operates, its market share and the brands and market share of its competitors; Target Market, which identifies the primary and secondary consumer groups that Sears is targeting; POP/POD, which describes Searsâ€™ points-of-parity and points-of-difference in the industry; and Unique Selling Point, which discusses the main POD that lets Sears stand out from its competitors and that should be used as its main selling point in order to differentiate itself.
The Sears brand is based on the old brick and mortar retail approach to business: Sears is dedicated to providing consumers with a place to shop, to find the trusted merchandise and home appliances that they need, and to obtain services that they desire. To make itself more appealing to consumers, Sears has a number of proprietary brands that it sells, including Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard (in the home appliances, kitchen, hardware, construction, and automotive industries), and in this way the Sears brand has broad appeal across numerous customer bases. Both men and women are attracted to the brand because of its diverse offeringsâ€”from kitchen and home appliances to garage and hand tool needs. The Sears brand is also focused on providing home servicesâ€”i.e., the companyâ€™s representatives visit the customerâ€™s house to install products that are purchasedâ€”from air conditioners to dishwashers to washing machines and so on. In this sense, Sears has always focused on providing consumers with quality as opposed to projecting an image of being a discount retailer like many of its competitors in retail.
The Sears brand is thus based on developing loyalty to its products through years of trusted usage, good will developed by making service calls to homesâ€”Sears makes â€œmore than 14 million service and installation calls annuallyâ€ (Sears, 2018), and ease of access by offering a retail outlet environment where products can be purchased or picked upâ€”i.e., the personal touch that is going missing in the days of Internet buying and e-commerce. The Sears brand stands out as one that is still committed to doing things the old fashioned wayâ€”and that has a meaningful impact on customers who want a brand with a good reputation for offering quality products like Craftsman, and is a long-running business that they can trust.
Source: Breillatt (2017)
The industry in which Sears operates is the retail industry. The leading brand competitors in this industry are Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon. Wal-Mart has nearly 12,000 stores in over 25 different countries and serves over 200 million customers every day (Karbastera, 2016; Jurevicius, 2018). Wal-Martâ€™s revenue is considerable: it has maintained an increasing year-over-year revenue of 485.873 billion USD in 2017, nearly a 1% increase from 2016. However, the companyâ€™s weakness is seen in its declining net profits: 13.643 billion USD in 2017 versus 14.694 billion USD in 2016â€”a fall of more than 7% (Jurevicius, 2018). This can be explained by the arrival of Amazon, the e-commerce giant that is putting traditional brick and mortar retailers out of business every single year. Wal-Martâ€™s market share stands at 25% (Hochschorner, 2016). Amazon has dominated online shopping and provides ease of access to consumers who can select products for delivery without ever having to leave their home. Amazonâ€™s market share of the entire retail industry is around 4% and its e-commerce share stands at 38% (Molla, 2017). Targetâ€™s meanwhile is around 2% (Hochschorner, 2016).
Wal-Martâ€™s brand is based on the idea that consumers can get quality products at the lowest discount prices at Wal-Martâ€™s mega-stores that are like all-in-one destinations, where customers can eat, shop, purchase home furnishings, groceries, and virtually anything else that might be needed. Targetâ€™s brand is similar and though the company is not as large-scale as Wal-Mart, it provides consumers with convenient access to a wide range of products, from clothing to furniture to household products, groceries, and more at low prices. Amazonâ€™s brand is based on the idea of shopping being made simple: consumers order their products through Amazonâ€™s website which hosts a wide ranging platform for sellers who then ship the product to the consumerâ€™s house. For all three companies, the ease and convenience of shopping is a big part of their brand appeal and the low prices attached to products are another aspect of the brand appeal.
As Sears offers a wide range of products to consumers, its target market is best understand in terms of demographic groups. Indeed, Sears appeals to several demographics and targets these groups at one and the same time. The first, and main group target would be the highly coveted 25-30 year old age group of consumers. This may be considered the primary target as this group is young enough and in possession of enough income that it can be thought of as high-level consumers with disposable income who can become life-long loyal consumers if they are attached to the brand. This demographic of 25-30 year old consumers (both men and women) makes up 35% of Searsâ€™ customers. This group is also considered likely to have young children, which means that they will end up shopping at Sears for merchandise as well if it is marketed to them appropriately.
The secondary target market for Sears is the 41-65 year old group of shoppers, which makes up approximately 30% of Searsâ€™ customer based. This demographic is believed to have even more disposable income than the first demographic, but it is also a group that is less impressionable in terms of marketing and its ways are more likely to be set in terms of where they shop. That is why the first group is the primary target, because if Sears can capture them as consumers, they will be able to count on them as life-long customers who will roll over into the secondary target demographic as they grow older.
Only 20% of Searsâ€™ consumers are shoppers who are under the age of 25 and so this demographic along with the over 65 demographic is not especially targeted by Sears. The main reason is that neither of these groups are expected to have a highly disposable income and thus they are not reliable as immediate consumers of goods, products, or services that Sears offers.
Sears is also targeting more e-commerce shoppers particularly in urban areas and converting old stores (like Kmartâ€”a Sears subsidiary) into warehouses in city areas so that online shoppers who make a purchase while at work downtown can pick up their item on the go as they leave the office (Shropshire, 2013). The idea behind targeting the urban, working class, e-commerce shopping market is that in order to survive in the digital age, Sears needs to stay relevant and competitive in online shopping so that its business is not undercut by Amazon.
Searsâ€™ points-of-parity (POP) are: 1) it offers a diverse range of products; 2) it is a brick and mortar retail chain with an online presence that is growing; 3) and it has core brands that are well known and have a strong consumer base.
Searsâ€™ points-of-difference (POD) are: 1) it offers services such as installation and maintenance; 2) its brands are unique in their own right; 3) and the main POD is this: it has its own brand image which is based being a provider of quality goods and services rather than a discount retailer.
Source: Lark (2018)
The category leaders in this industry also offer a diverse range of products, have brick and mortar chains (even Amazon has picked up Whole Foods in order to have its own brick and mortar outlets), and have core brandsâ€”like Wal-Martâ€™s private label brands. Thus, in these terms, Sears is very similar to its competitors. For the primary target market, Sears does not stand out as special in terms of being a retailer with physical locations, offering a range of products, or having its own proprietary brands to sell.
However, in terms of being unique, Sears does differ from its leading competitors in the industry in terms of providing home services and maintenance, having strong proprietary brands that have a long consumer history and are known for their high quality, and having a brand image that is more oriented towards quality overall than it is towards being seen as a discounter. For the primary target market, these PODs make Sears a strong competitor in the industry and give it a favorable position among the 25-30 year old demographic that is leading target market. The fact that Sears will provide installation and routine maintenance and service on its home products is an incentive that buyers in this target market find very appealing.
Source: Lark (2018)
Unique Selling Point
Searsâ€™ unique selling point is its qualityâ€”which comes in terms of products and service. Its products, first of all, have a high reputation among consumers: Craftsman and Kenmore are two of the top selling brands among tools and home appliances and they consistently get high ratings from consumers. Thus, while Searsâ€™ competitors may focus on the ease of shopping offered by e-commerce platforms or the big discount savings offered by the mega-retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, Sears can take pride in its proprietary brands which have stood the test of time with consumers for generations and in its home services that include installation and maintenance (along with its automotive care). Sears can be, in this sense, linked to the concept of home in the mind of the consumer because it takes to heart the need of the homeowner for quality products and servicesâ€”which is not a need that Amazon can fulfill easily or that Wal-Mart can satisfy with its low costs.
Sears has a unique brand that allows it to be competitive among the leaders in the retail industryâ€”namely Wal-Mart, Target and
Amazonâ€”in that it focuses primarily on offering consumers quality products and services at competitive prices. While Wal-Mart may price-match Sears with its products, it cannot match Sears with its quality and services. That is what makes Sears a unique retailer in the industryâ€”and the way to differentiate itself among its larger competitors is to emphasize this aspect of its brandâ€”quality, as everyone else is focusing on convenience and discounts. As Trout and Rivkin (2006) note, one must â€œdifferentiate or dieâ€ in the marketplaceâ€”and identifying itself uniquely by marketing its quality brands is the way that Sears will stay competitive in the coming years.
Breillatt, A. (2017). Sears. Retrieved from http://pictureimperfect.net/2017/01/05/sears-from-wishbook-to-wistful-thinking/
Hochschorner, K. (2016). Wal-Martâ€”PT $42.48. Retrieved from https://seekingalpha.com/article/3979929-wal-mart-pt-42_48
Jurevicius, O. (2018). Walmart SWOT analysis 2018. Retrieved from https://www.strategicmanagementinsight.com/swot-analyses/walmart-swot-analysis.html
Karbastera, K. (2016). Walmart and IKEA. Retrieved from http://216108.edicypages.com/blog/walmart-and-ikea-which-is-better
Lark. (2018). Sears home maintenance plan. Retrieved from http://lark.website/Sears-home-maintenance-plan.html
Molla, R. (2017). Amazon could be responsible for nearly half of U.S. e-commerce sales in 2017. Retrieved from https://www.recode.net/2017/10/24/16534100/amazon-market-share-ebay-walmart-apple-ecommerce-sales-2017
Sears. (2018). Sears holdings. Retrieved from https://searsholdings.com/brands/sears
Shropshire, C. (2013). Sears shifts gears and sets sight on busy urbanites. Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-02-14/business/ct-biz-0214-sears-20130214_1_sears-holdings-sears-spokesman-chris-brathwaite
Trout, J. & Rivkin, S. (2006). Differentiate or die. In The marketing Gurus (ed. Murray). NY: Penguin.
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