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Sam’s Club is getting personal

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NEW YORK — As a membership organization, Sam’s Club has amassed a trove of data about its customers, from who is in the club to when they are there and from how often they shop to what they’re buying. Now, the retailer is unleashing that data to create more personal, relevant and emotionally connected experiences for members, commented Tracey Brown, senior vice president and chief member officer at Sam’s Club.

“If you don’t know who you’re going after, there’s no way you’re going to be able to create such experiences. We have the entire life cycle, every single touch point [of customer behavior]. We understand, and we’re using that information to create that experience,” Brown explained last month during a presentation titled “Path to Purchase: The Intersection of Content and Commerce” delivered at the National Retail Federation’s annual convention here.

Access to mounds of member data helps Sam’s Club create a more consumer-centric retail model, commented Brown, but it’s just a start: Executives also are monitoring the culture and getting creative with personal technology.

“To win in the ‘any era,’ at Sam’s Club we think about three things: We must be inspired by culture, we must be driven by data, and we must have our strategies transformed by technology,” Brown noted. Any era is shorthand among Sam’s Club executives for the challenges and opportunities presented by big data and digital technology. “When we at Sam’s Club think about the intersection of content and commerce, we think about winning in any era. Any time, any device, anywhere, any way.”

Getting inspiration from the culture is an increasingly time-consuming job.

“At any given time, there are about 60 cultural content networks that we are following. Things like “the frictionless life,” things like “selfie confidence,” Brown said. “More and more people have curated an online persona. And that online persona gives each of us confidence. So much so that your online persona is very much a part of your world today. That means more and more consumers are sharing personal stories, personal moments. At a brand like Sam’s Club, we’re trying to figure out how do we connect to those personal moments and stories that our members are sharing. ‘Everyday stardom’ is another cultural trend on the rise right now. Everyone has expectations that you’re going to provide them with this celebrity experience, every single day every single interaction, where they are the star of the show. And as a brand, if you understand that this is a cultural trend, you’ve got to figure out how to intersect that. So at Sam’s Club, we’re thinking about how do we create stardom celebrity customer experiences every single day.”

Having a handle on the culture also is beneficial to the retailer’s efforts to use technology to transform the shopping experience, Brown pointed out.

“We’re not talking about creating new-to-the-world technology. There’s so much technology out there. How do you take technology that’s out there and plus it up? Create a mash-up and use technology in new ways to create value, create a better in-club experience?” Brown observed. “Is it through the mobile phone and mobile apps? Is it by creating more convenience and efficiencies, like scan-and-go, so you no longer have to stand in line? Do easy things, like order a cake online and go pick it up? In the warehouse club environment, it’s about a curated assortment. Unlike most retailers, we don’t have thousands upon thousands of SKUs, so how can we create technology to create more breadth? These are the kinds of things that we think about when we think about how do we leverage ­technology.”


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