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Trove of shopping data provides chain with actionable insights

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BENTONVILLE, Ark. — The opportunity to apply data science and digital technology to old-fashioned retailing fundamentals makes this an exciting time for Sam’s Club, says senior vice president and chief member officer Tracey Brown.

The opportunity to apply data science and digital technology to old-fashioned retailing fundamentals makes this an exciting time for Sam’s Club, says senior vice president and chief member officer Tracey Brown.

"At this inflection point moment we are truly starting to unleash the power of this gold mine that we’ve been sitting on, which is our member data," Brown says. "Because we are a membership organization, we have knowledge and insights about our members and what they’re doing that other retailers just don’t have. And our growth strategy is really about using this asset to create what I call irrational loyalty in our member base. It’s a critical part of how we’re going to win."

The ongoing effort to use data to better tailor club offerings to the needs and preferences of members is consistent with Sam Walton’s vision for the warehouse club chain, which he founded in 1983.

"He essentially said that we need to put the members at the center of everything we do," Brown said. "We need to treat them well, provide them with a great in-club experience and provide them with merchandise that they love. And if we got those three things right, they would return to us time and time again.

"Fast forward to 2015, and those same fundamentals still apply today. And our strategy is about going back to the basics, but with a modern twist that comes from the application of data and digital.

"Data, and the information we have about our members, will allow us to be more relevant, more useful, and will drive more connections. And digital technology is allowing us to create an omnichannel experience that is more frictionless and more convenient. We can also have two-way dialogues with our ­members."

Sam’s Club has created the Member Engagement Platform, for example, which serves up personalized offers to members that are delivered directly to their cards.

And members no longer have to carry a plastic membership card to get into the club, because there’s a digital card included in the Sam’s Club app on their smartphone. Members can use the app to receive personalized offers or order from the Sam’s Club website.

Members who use their phones to place online orders can also schedule a club pickup, setting up a time to pick their order up at the club.

"One of our fundamental principles is this notion of constantly being in touch with our members’ wants and needs and then, as an organization, figuring out how to fulfill those needs," Brown says. "For instance, we know that both our consumer and our business members are time starved, so anything we could do to make the shopping experience faster and easier for them would be seen as a value. Club pickup is an example of that."


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