Last month on sister blog Amazon Strategies, initial insight into what Sears is planning in terms of marketplace expansion was revealed. It appears that Sears has continued to move forward, at least on the CPC side, as they are currently beta testing an integration with Shop.com.
In the current configuration, third party retailer offers appears in results next to products sold by Sears Holding's brands. From running a few queries, tt appears the third party offers are listed after the native listings unless the Sears offerings relevance is extremely poor. Sears brands are always perched atop the merchant list as well. Since it's their site, both of these are expected from a user experience perspective. It's also worth noting that the product pages promote the top ranked offer significantly over the remaining merchants. When Sears carries the item, the remaining offers are at the very bottom of the page. When Sears is not in the picture, the lead merchant gets strong emphasis over other merchant offers. Many consumers probably won't even see the other offers on these pages.
This integration seems to be a big win for Shop.com, which has a solid offering but certainly not the largest product catalog in the CSE space. Since Shop.com pulls some of their offer data from the Shopping.com database, Shopping.com is secondarily looped into the Sears expansion. So if you have live listings with Shop.com or Shopping.com, your offers could be live on Sears.com soon.
The real question will become, which is the best method for advertising products on Sears.com? The varying rate cards of Sears.com, Shop.com and Shopping.com will certainly come into the evaluation process. For example, if you are a jewelry seller, you may be best off sending your products to Shopping.com only since they charge $0.50 per click compared to $0.55 by Sears or $0.75 by Shop.com. The Sears rate card has ranges for some categories so it's hard to compare directly in those cases without more information, especially against Shopping.com where pricing is tiered by product price.
One major upside for the Sears program is the daily budget option, currently available in Amazon's very similar Product Ads program but not on other CSEs. One major downside, though, is that they are only accepting manual uploads of offer data through their interface at this time, meaning keeping prices and stock up to date is more painful.
There is also the display/exposure question. It seems likely that Sears will promote more highly the products they can monetize at a higher level. It may vary but one would think direct Sears offers would mean maximum advertising spend to Sears more often than not.
Only time will tell, but with the traffic volume Sears.com sees, this program has the opportunity to make a significant impact on existing campaigns through Shop.com or Shopping.com, especially if this goes live before the holidays.