RealTime IT News

Sears, AOL Aim to Boost Signups, Card Use With Promotions

Sears, Roebuck and Co. and America Online are set to begin a series of in-store and online promotions designed to boost sales for the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based retailer and membership for the online services giant.

Beginning Wednesday, Sears will set up interactive displays promoting AOL membership at registers in the home electronics departments of all of its approximately 860 Sears department stores in the U.S., and its nine stores in Puerto Rico, and at the service desks of its 180 Sears Hardware Stores. Customers can purchase a year of AOL access at the register.

This sign-up push is positioned as a way to "give the gift of Internet access this holiday season," said Joe Charno, Sears Online vice president of online marketing.

Customers signing up in Sears stores for one year of AOL service will also receive a $50 sears.com shopping spree, free label-maker software and 700 hours of AOL service free for the first month.

The companies are also launching a contest to promote AOL sign-ups and visits to Sears' online store. Sears customers who register for a one-year AOL membership are also automatically entered in a sweepstakes for a chance to win one of five $100,000 prizes. The Sears Good Life Giveaway sweepstakes runs through April.

In addition, Dulles, Va.-based AOL will give new and existing users of its version 6 the option of paying for their use of the service with the Sears Card, which is the largest domestic proprietary credit card, with some 39 million active cardholders.

Consumers who use a Sears Card as payment when signing up in a store for a year of AOL will also receive store coupons worth about $2,400 for use in Sears stores for Sears Card purchases.

The promotions come as part of a deal announced by the companies in March. That deal also made Sears merchandise available on AOL's Shop@AOL areas on its properties -- including AOL, AOL.COM, Netscape Netcenter, and CompuServe -- and through AOL Keyword: Sears, and specifies AOL as Sears' preferred provider of Internet access. Financial terms of that agreement were not disclosed.

"The convenience of registering for the AOL service in our stores, payment with a Sears Card and the money-saving opportunities with The Good Life Giveaway represent the next steps in the strategic alliance," Charno said.

"These new promotions will bring the convenience of AOL to Sears customers and provide a new payment option for AOL members, while making it possible to win valuable shopping sprees and sweepstakes," said AOL marketing president Jan Brandt.

Brandt also said AOL and Sears are considering additional promotions in the future.