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Sam’s Club leverages booking app to compete in travel sector

Wholesale retailer Sam’s Club is entering the hospitality sector and attempting to compete with travel mobile applications by offering its members a free Sam’s Club Travel app that includes savings on hotels, vacation homes, cars and other activities as well as in-app booking capabilities.

As the first mass retailer to roll out a members-only app dedicated to business and leisure travel needs, Sam’s Club is poised to drive more downloads and entice mobile users to visit its extensive travel inventory. Highlighted features of the Sam’s Club Travel app, which is available on iOS and Android platforms, include simplified search, quick booking and a last minute deals tab.

“Our members join Sam’s Club for savings – and in today’s fast-paced communities, saving time is as valuable to our members as saving money,” said Carrie Foster Moore,  senior manager, Sam’s Club communications, Bentonville, Ark. “With simplified search, easy access to reservations and 24/7 member support, the Sam’s Club Travel app is a valuable convenience tool for our members and a necessary evolution of our travel booking program that keeps us competitive in the travel service industry.”

Driving travel commerce
In an attempt to compete with other popular travel booking apps such as Expedia and Travelocity, Sam’s Club is hoping that streamlined search options and increased booking capability will resonate with consumers and help members save money and time as the busy holiday traveling season approaches.

Customers can filter or sort search results by price, Trip Advisor review count, star rating or proximity from current location. Those looking for last-minute offers can discover exclusive savings opportunities of up to 60 percent off retail price when searching under the “Deals” tab of the app.

Users can browse through more than 40,000 hotels and 10,000 vacation activities

The app enables users to book more than 40,000 hotels in 4,500 available cities, in addition to flights and vacation homes. Once a destination or activity is booked, the consumer can choose from 18 car rental brands and 25,000 pick-up locations around the world.

Sam’s Club is catering to consumers of all languages and nationalities with the app, which has global adaptability and offers changes for language, currency and theme.

“More than half of our members regularly access using mobile devices and as our CEO Rosalind Brewer stated on CNBC just yesterday, about 10 percent of our members are shopping Sam’s Club on their mobile phone while they are in the club,” Ms. Foster Moore said. “Our member services team sought out Tourico as a collaborator for Sam’s Club Travel because their inventory is enabled by the latest technology, including integrated Trip Advisor reviews and a massive selection of last minute hotel deals that are right for our member’s leisure and business travel needs.”

The mass retailer also provides 24/7 support to members with inquiries, including travel changes and weather cancellations.

Interested consumers can sign up for Sam’s Club’s Weekly Travel Insider emails to see the latest offers at

Card-imaging feature
The app provides a fast booking process via card-imaging technology that snaps a photo of a consumer’s credit card and automatically populates the card’s information. When a user seeks to use the app for a second time, the information will already be saved.

Card-imaging technology has been on the rise since Apple introduced the feature to Safari earlier this year. If iOS 8 users are seeking easy ways to pay for purchases via their smartphones, they can visit the Passwords & Autofill setting and select “Scan a Credit Card” to snap a photo.

Apple uses optical character recognition to input the card’s information into Safari’s text fields. Users can also scan and save credit cards from the camera directly in the settings tab.

For consumers interested in deals not specific to travel, Sam’s Club also offers a standalone app dedicated to in-store and exclusive app deals. Plus members receive cash rewards, among a slew of other available features, including next day pick-up, prescription refills at its pharmacy and easy membership renewal.

“At Sam’s Club, we want to meet current and potential members how, when and where they want to shop, so staying relevant in the mobile space is clearly a top priority for us,” Ms. Foster Moore said.

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York