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Sam’s Club prepares for holiday rush with new mobile site, apps

Leading up to the busiest shopping season of the year, membership warehouse club Sam’s Club debuted a mobile Web site and smartphone applications to enhance and simplify the experience.

The newly launched Sam’s Club application can be downloaded for free from Apple’s App Store, Google’s Android Market and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry App World. The application includes features such as access to product information, member reviews and eValues.

“The overarching goal was really to enhance our members’ shopping experience, both online and offline, and to help our members make the smartest choices possible, which really benefits them,” said Jason Jackson, senior director of member program development at Sam’s Club, Bentonville, AR.

“The other side of the apps and the mobile Web was to create a simplified shopping experience and an efficient user interface so our members have a great experience,” he said.

A division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Sam’s Club serves more than 47 million members in the United States with locations nationwide, as well as in Brazil, China, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Sam’s Mobile Club
The Sam’s Club applications let members interact with Sam’s Club and is designed to help them make smart choices on products throughout the club and online.

Sam’s Club research indicates that its members over-index in shopping from their smartphone compared to the general market.

A recent survey conducted by Sam’s Club shows that more than 40 percent of its members are smartphone users.

The majority of Sam’s Club members use iPhone, BlackBerry or Android phones, creating a need to reach all platforms.

Customized information
The Sam’s Club applications create broader opportunities to engage with members by bringing local and relevant information directly to their smartphones.

The new applications give users up-to-the-minute information about local club events, membership renewal status and company announcements.

Sam’s Club Plus Members can view their eValues—exclusive, customized discounts automatically loaded on their membership cards—directly from the applications.

Plus Members who use the Sam’s Club App are alerted instantly when new offers are added to their eValues and when eValues near the expiration date.

“The eValues are a benefit for our Sam’s Club Plus members, our top-tier membership, featuring targeted promotions and discounts on items that are relevant to individual members based on their shopping history provided at a weekly interval,” Mr. Jackson said.

“We wanted to create a multichannel experience so our members can interact with Sam’s Club in the way they want to interact, and with eValues, they can access the coupons any way they want to get them, including from their mobile device,” he said.

“We’re serving up the deal to the member at the point of decision, which is a really powerful thing and helps our members in the way that they shop.”

Examples of promotions include $4 off Ziplock bags, $3 off Centrum, $3 of Glad trash bags, $15 off HP ink and $6 off Monster energy drinks.

“We’ve got a great assortment of our supplier base offering deals,” Mr. Jackson said. “Most of our top suppliers want to participate in the program, and being able to tether that with mobile makes it all the more relevant.”

Club locator
Members on the go can use the application to locate the nearest Sam’s Club.

A Club Locator feature provides both directions and details such as hours of operation and services offered.

The My Club feature provides information about the member’s preferred club and includes club-specific product assortment, available services, as well as information about local events such as book signings, flu shots and road shows.

Also included is a Club Map feature to help members easily navigate the interior of each club, including the layout of individual department locations such as electronics, office supplies, fresh food, bakery and pharmacy.

Product assortment
To find the right product, Sam’s Club members can tap the Products icon, scroll through the product catalog by category, search a product by name or use a smartphone camera to scan the bar code and check the product’s online information page.

Other features include access to thousands of product reviews, product availability status, in-depth product information and multiple images of each product.

Members can also share their favorite products with friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter by using the social networking at a-tap functionality.

The Feedback function lets users can send suggestions for future application updates so Sam’s Club can respond to members’ wants and needs.

Earlier this year, Sam’s Club announced the addition of Wi-Fi in all U.S. locations, giving smartphone users access to information and improved usage of the Sam’s Club application while shopping.

Sam’s Club also launched a mobile Web version of to enhance the experience for Web-enabled phone users.

There is also a microsite, as well as a mobile version of the microsite.

“The holiday messages are huge for Sam and really those take the primary spot, as well as how the mobile can enhance your holiday shopping experience,” Mr. Jackson said. “Everything we put in the app and on the mobile Web site is really foundational, and we’re excited about what’s to come.

“We’re always going back to our members, and this was so important that the feedback button is prominently displayed on that front page,” he said. “It caused our members to really use that button.”

Final Take