Sears, one of the largest e-tailers in the US, has just relaunched the websites for two of its online brands, Kmart.com and Sears.com, and has introduced an interesting new multi-search feature.

This means that shoppers at either of the relaunched websites can search on one site and receive product results across both of them. Sears has also added tabs at the top of each page that allow users to quickly access any of the company’s six e-commerce sites.

So, if I search for an iPod on Sears, I get results from Kmart as well:

Sears multi search function

For some items, searching across two sites will produce large numbers of matching products, but the websites have some good filtered navigation options to deal with this problem.

Users can choose to limit their search to just one of the sites, or filter by colour, price, memory size, or user rating; all good options which should make product searches more manageable:

Sears filtering options

So far, so good, but there are some aspects which may irritate customers, such as the fact that selecting to buy an item from Kmart when on the Sears site opens a new window, rather than just taking you straight to the site.

Also, all of the sites aren’t integrated, so while you can move from Sears or Kmart to another site without losing the contents of your cart, switching from the other four sites will mean that the items you have already added to your basket will be lost.

Gap tried a similar idea with its relaunched site last year, integrating all of its brands into a single checkout function, though searches are restricted to the one site. According to one survey, despite the benefits in terms of reduced delivery costs, this had the effect of undermining brand perception, something that, if true, Sears is risking here.

I’m not convinced by that argument, though, and the benefits of providing customers with a greater range of products to search through may well outweigh such concerns.