How Sam’s Club is accelerating innovation during the pandemic and beyond

When the coronavirus changed the needs of shoppers beginning in March, Sam’s Club knew it had to act fast to change the way it served its members. And while some store safety precautions were relatively clear and easy to implement, others involved technology that hadn’t been developed yet.

On this episode of Retail Gets Real, Eddie Garcia, Sam’s Club senior vice president and chief product officer, joins the podcast to share how the company is innovating at an accelerated pace during the pandemic and what it means for the future of retail.

When Garcia was tasked with providing the operations that enhance user experience and convenience, he saw an opportunity to revolutionize safe shopping.

“Part of our DNA and part of our culture is rooted into infusing our solutions with great technology,” Garcia said. It took Sam’s Club just six days to develop the concept and deployment of a concierge app, which provides quick and contactless shopping for consumers who need to buy essential goods in bulk. The “Shop from Your Car” service for elderly and at-risk populations allows team members to take orders from consumer vehicles, shop and load merchandise without customers needing to leave their vehicles.

“Small, empowered cross-functional teams” composed of Sam’s Club technology, product management, business, analytics and marketing teams collaborated to develop the app, whose algorithms auto-generate a personalized shopping list based on prior member purchases. With over 130,000 transactions from the concierge app, Garcia says hybrid shopping — that combination of digital and physical experiences — is not simply a pandemic trend; it’s here to stay.

“The winners in retail are those that are going to be the most adaptable. We’re ready to adapt to meet the member need, if and when we need to, as quickly as we can.”

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