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Sam's Club to extend life of first mobile app

Sam's Club, a warehouse club chain owned by Walmart Stores Inc., will continue to keep its Gifter Stress Lifter mobile application up and running after the holidays.

The iPhone application was designed to find personalized ideas for friends, family or colleagues on the Sam's Club member's holiday shopping list. An extension of the online app at, the mobile version is also a tool to change consumer perceptions of Sam's Club.

"The idea of the online app and the extension of that on mobile is to help consumers find additional products that they may not think about during the holidays," said Joe Grigsby, director of mobile strategy at VML, the Kansas City, MO, agency on the account.

"It's also to change the perception of what they can buy at Sam's Club," he said.

Sam's Club is a membership-based retailer targeting households and small businesses with jewelry, designer goods, sunglasses, crystal and collectibles, electronics, apparel, tires, flowers and food items.

Each store is typically 110,000 to 130,000 square feet and includes a pharmacy.

The Gifter Stress Lifter app was launched Nov. 19, positioned as a personal shopper for Sam's Club members as a companion for the holidays. VML, an interactive shop owned by Britain's WPP Group PLC, created the app.

For Uncle Sam?
The application requires Sam's Club members to add to the list by including names on the shopping list.

The next step is taking a quiz to help Sam's Clug get to know the recipients better by answering questions about their personalities.

Based on the answers, Sam's Club will offer gift recommendations for shopping online or at the retailer's stores nationwide.

In essence, customers who download the app are asked to build a profile of a friend or family member. They can enter the person's name, age and contact details, identify the relationship and upload photographs as well as import people from the iPhone contact list.

Once that demographic profile is complete, customers can build a behavioral profile of their friends or family. Six questions are asked to offer an insight into the person's behavior.

The questions asked during the experience are: "How do they unwind?"; "How do their weekends begin?"; "If they had to eat one meal for the rest of their life, what would it be?"; "What type of ice cream toppings would they choose?"; "What's most likely to motivate them?"; and "What kind of dog would they be?"

After the demographic and behavioral profiles are complete, Sam's Club comes back with a list of recommended products for that profile. It is rules-based.

The products recommended are designed to fit the profile. So someone identified as a DIY Buff will get do-it-yourself recommendations on gardening products or handyman items. Avid Readers get books and Outdoorsy Type get outdoor items.

The other personalities that result from answering the questions include Art Aficionado, Caregiver, Decorating Devotee, Eco-Enthusiast, Exercise Fanatic, Foodie, Gadget Guru, Gamer, Green Thumb, Host with the Most, Master of Order, Media Junkie, Pet Lover, Professional, Sports Nut, Travel Fiend and Trendy Hipster.

Products recommended for these profiles can be shopped via a link through the app to the Sam's Club wired Web site, although consumers can also take their iPhone to the store and buy those items.

"The only issue is that it takes them to the desktop Web site, but it's not the ideal version," Mr. Grigsby said.

"Sam's Club is making a mobile version of their Web site and that will drive them to the optimized site," he said.

Gifter Stretch Lifter
Not that the Gifter Stress Lifter is doing too bad.

"We were happy with the fact that the iPhone app was outperforming the online app," Mr. Grigsby said.
VML noticed that there were more than 1,000 downloads of the mobile app in the first week after its launch.

Sam's Club is promoting Gifter Stress Lifter in its email newsletter to members and on its wired Web site. Plus, the app will stay up on the iPhone App Store.

"Based on the performance and expectations, we're looking to work with Sam's Club for every holiday -- Mother's Day, Valentine's and Fourth of July," Mr. Grigsby said.

There is no doubt Sam's Club has found value in using the Gifter Stress Lifter not only as an intelligence tool, but also as an exercise to position the warehouse club as more than just a destination for bulk goods.

"It's getting Sam's Club as a place to shop for gift ideas," Mr. Grigsby said.

"When people think of purchasing things at a Sam's Club, they think of parties and big-ticket items," he said. "We really do want to broaden the view of when to shop at Sam's Club."