From Scan & Go, Sam’s Club Now, to Ask Sam, innovation is in our DNA at Sam’s Club. We have even been called “The Most Innovative Retailer in America.” So, what is the “secret sauce” (as framed by Eddie Garcia, Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer, in a recent episode of Retail Gets Real) behind the accelerated innovation at Sam’s Club?
Here are the ingredients Sam’s Club uses to revolutionize retail and best serve our members, especially during the pandemic:
1. Investment in foundational technologies
COVID-19 is redefining the new normal, and Sam’s Club has leveraged technology to provide our members with contactless shopping experiences.
When the pandemic hit, it was our existing modular platform work that allowed us to reuse code from Scan & Go and rapidly pivot to meet members’ needs. As a result, Sam’s Club was able to develop, test, and launch our Concierge service chainwide in just six days, offering a car-side, frictionless shopping experience for senior, disabled, and at-risk members.
And we did not stop there! Thanks to our matured infrastructure, Sam’s Club expanded a 16-club pilot of curbside pickup to all 597 clubs in June. Now, members can order online and pick up items curbside without ever leaving the car.
Tim Simmons, Vice President of In-Club Product Management, described the creation process behind curbside pickup in this interview with Cheddar TV:
“In the case of curbside pickup, it was work we were already doing with operations and technology that enabled us to move quickly. For example, the technology infrastructure was largely in place—everything from placing an order online, to checking in at the club, in addition to Quick Pick, our app that helps associates pick and dispense orders.”
2. Empowerment of cross-functional teams
Our most innovative ideas come from associates who are closest to the members. The empowered cross-functional teams at Sam’s Club, known as experience teams, find these opportunities and work together to capture them with an entrepreneurial spirit.
“We have the concept of experience teams, where it’s a combination of business, product and technology,” said Vinod Bidarkoppa, Senior Vice President of Technology, in a podcast interview with Rethink Retail. “So, as you put all of those heads together, the sum is always greater than the parts.”
This ethos of collaboration and agility is what fuels Sam’s Club Now, our technology lab that doubles as an operating club. With the feedback collected from in-club associates and members at Sam’s Club Now, our experience teams use their multidisciplinary strengths to refine and roll out promising technologies—like Ask Sam, for instance.
3. Commitment to continuous evolution
“Final iteration” is not in the Sam’s Club vocabulary. Beyond iterating within given products, Sam’s Club is devoted to evolving as a company.
Looking back at the past four years alone: we opened Sam’s Club Now and the Innovation Center in Dallas, added new features to the Sam’s Club app, tested item vision, partnered with Instacart to offer same day delivery, developed new technologies to help keep our members and associates safe during COVID-19, and we are not even close to being done.
Moving forward, we are piloting the ability for members to use Scan & Go at our fuel stations. Members will use the Sam’s Club app or scan a QR code at the fuel pump, no longer needing to swipe a membership or credit card. This technology is only available in a small number of clubs right now but expect to see it at more locations in the future.