Remaking the warehouse club experience
How do you evolve a successful business in response to a rapidly changing market landscape in order to better serve shoppers? We helped Sam’s Club redefine the membership warehouse experience to position the company for a new phase of growth.
Sam’s Club, founded in 1983 by Walmart, was the nation’s first member-only warehouse club. The original charter focused on small business owners, providing them with a new way to reduce their expenses through a self-service warehouse to purchase critical inventory. Over the next three decades Sam’s Club grew to be a 45-billion dollar company, but also realized that the market landscape had changed in significant ways:
Blurring competitive lines. Other warehouse clubs, discount chains and department stores were increasingly vying for the same consumers, many of whom were looking for convenience and value above a particular type of store. Many of these competitive stores had created a more compelling or differentiated shopping experience.
Evolving consumer behavior. Many members no longer fit into neat categories. For example, a small business, instead of just buying business-specific items, bought both business and household consumer goods in the same “business” shopping trip. Sam’s Club needed to appeal to both business and personal shoppers, and the overlap between the two.
Recognizing an opportunity to reinvent itself, Sam’s Club launched a massive segmentation and branding initiative to assess and evolve the company’s marketing and brand strategy.
HOW WE PARTNERED TOGETHER
The first step was a deep dive into current perceptions of the member experience and the Sam’s Club brand. We spent months on site at Sam’s Club headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas and at their warehouses in the field analyzing the company’s operations, auditing the brand and evaluating the company’s marketplace and competitors. The resulting insights influenced a fundamental shift in the company’s strategy—transforming its focus from low-price to member-centric. Key aspects of the approach included:
Redefining the value of “membership.” While the original Sam’s Club vision was to win customers based on price and utility, the new positioning underscores the club’s mantra of “Making Lives Better…One Member at a Time.” The new strategy involved radically shifting the focus from membership fees to member-centric experiences.
Aligning the Sam’s Club experience with the member-centric approach. We worked closely with Sam’s Club to translate the new positioning into a distinct visual identity. We implemented a comprehensive plan to align every aspect of the shopping experience behind our new, member-centric strategy. This strategy, along with the new brand values, now shape every aspect of the Sam’s Club experience, from employee training and merchandising strategies to visuals and messaging at all member touch points.
Sam's Club now ranks second in annual sales volume among warehouse clubs with 57 billion in sales.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
Sam’s Club still excels at providing exceptional value and convenience to members. But today, individual and small-business members perceive the brand for more than just its low prices. Sam’s Club is now focused on the goal of becoming the warehouse club of choice for both business and personal shopping needs.