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Walmart-owned Sam's Club targets in-store shoppers with mobile services

Sam?s Club is ramping up its products and services for users of smartphones and other Web-enabled mobile devices to enhance its members? shopping experience.

The Wal-Mart Stores Inc.-owned membership retailer plans to launch applications for Apple?s iPhone, Google?s Android and Research In Motion?s BlackBerry in September and to upgrade all of its locations nationwide with WiFi by November. The retail giant tapped the agency Rockfish Interactive to create the applications.

?Putting WiFi in our clubs and allowing smartphone connectivity enhances our members? shopping experience,? said Jason Jackson, senior director of member innovation at Sam?s Club, Bentonville, AR. ?The future of mobile is being able to download content in real time, and WiFi also lets us demo laptops and other connected devices inside the club.

?Our goal for the apps is also to enhance members? shopping experience,? he said. ?Mobile is a bridge between our traditional dot-com site at home and the bricks-and-mortar experience, and these apps bring something new to members at their fingertips.

?Mobile is a fast-moving evergreen channel that is driven by what members tell us they want.?

Sam's Club serves more than 47 million members in the U.S. with locations nationwide, as well as in Brazil, China, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

In-store WiFi, retail apps
AT&T will provide WiFi to Sam's Club, which will allow its members greater use of their WiFi-enabled smartphones while shopping and let associates demo new Internet Protocol TVs as well as other Internet-connected devices in real time.

Members may view their favorite Web application such as Facebook, Pandora or Vudo on large screen TVs to better understand how it would appear at home.

In addition, hundreds of product reviews will now be accessible in-club to help members research potential purchases and access

Here is a screen grab of Sam's Club in-store environment:

Sam Club members are early-adopters of technology and electronics, and they overindex as smartphone users.

For that reason, Sam's Club plans to offer smartphone applications for the iPhone, BlackBerry and Droid platforms.

?A year ago we did a survey that found Sam?s Club members? smartphone ownership was double the industry rate,? Mr. Jackson said. ?While our under-35 members are the biggest smartphone users, there is no demographic for mobile anymore.

?Mobile usage is so widespread that age has been thrown out the window,? he said.

Mobile shopping apps
The applications will include various features such as product information, member reviews, a store locator, a feedback button and access to eValues, which are extra discounts loaded directly onto the Plus Membership cards.

?We want our members to feel smart about what they?re doing and make good choices, and being able to use the app to see our product catalog and member reviews via their smartphones will help them out,? Mr. Jackson said.

Mr. Jackson said that additional functionality details will be communicated soon.

The Sam's Club applications are designed to make it easier for members to make the right choices on products throughout the club and foster greater member interaction with Sam's Club.

These will not be the retailer's first smartphone applications. In 2008, Sam?s Club launched its Gifter Stress Lifter mobile application for the holidays (see story).

The new Sam's Club applications will be available in September.

?We will have a total multichannel presence to get the word out, with a focus on digital media, both in-club and outside of the club, which is the only way to go,? Mr. Jackson said.

?We?re targeting current members, as it?s a shopping enhancement tool, but also prospective members across multiple media channels,? he said.

Final Take
Dan Butcher, associate editor, Mobile Marketer