Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the newmarketbuilders blog.
At Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber's WalStreet speaker series in September, John Boswell, Walmart's SVP of marketing, insights, and e-commerce, discussed how critical technology and data are to forging connections with members.
Early in his presentation, Mr. Boswell spoke of the importance of connecting "dots," his metaphor for data, and not just gathering or looking at them. Thirty years ago, no one could have foreseen that Sam's membership model would offer it a unique advantage in the big-data-driven digital age. Today, while that may be the case, Sam's must first overcome an obstacle that is both fundamental to its business model and vital to its profitability: convincing consumers that paying for the privilege of shopping at Sam's is a great investment.
Sam's is parsing the particulars of its members' journeys from onboarding to renewal, and looking at ways to customize communication every step of the way. Mr. Boswell outlined the three-pronged framework that underpins its member communication strategy as one-to-all, one-to-many, and one-to-one.
One-to-all encompasses Sam's mass communications. Mr. Boswell cited the company's recent partnership with Groupon and Living Social as an example. Through the campaign, Sam's sold over 150,000 memberships in a three-day period.
Its Instant Savings platform, which offers special savings above and beyond its usual members-only prices, was cited as a prime example of its more narrowly-focused one-to-many outreach. On its second-quarter earnings call, Sam's CEO Rosalind Brewer referred to Instant Savings as a cornerstone of Sam's Club membership, driving club traffic and awareness of Sam's value offerings.
The one-to-many approach is also embodied by Sam's in-club digital network. Mr. Boswell refers to it as an "integrated digital solution for suppliers." In 600 club stores, the TV walls of yesteryear have been replaced by slick digital signage, and the system has already reduced new content turnaround to a matter of hours, from a previous timeframe of seven to 10 days.
Of course, retail's universal hot button, mobile, is part of the equation as well. Sam's new mobile app was credited for helping drive a nearly 25 percent increase in average basket size in the second quarter over the previous quarter.
On the one-to-one front, Mr. Boswell alluded to Sam's "modeling capabilities," which allow them to individualize communication by member household, and specifically emphasized the importance of engaging with new members in the first 30, 60, and 90 days of membership. It stands to reason that not only does a non-engaged member buy less, but indifference shuts off the data spigot that is the lifeline of Sam's insight ecosystem.
Are warehouse clubs at an advantage or disadvantage versus non-membership retailers when it comes to tapping into shopper data?