Sam’s Club puts member experience above all else, so the retail giant set out to design digital tools that create a seamless end-to-end experience for members, whether they shop in-Club or online, empowering a critical resource for performance.
Expanding the definition of a customer
When you hear the word ‘customer,’ you normally imagine a person standing in front of a cash register, credit card in hand. The upheaval of the retail space in recent years has changed that definition. It’s entirely possible that, as you were reading this, you remembered you needed to buy batteries, did exactly that on your phone, and will have them sitting on your doorstep before the day is over. The machinations that need to occur in the background in order for that to happen are complex and critical.
Sam’s Club, one of the largest retailers in the US, is responding to this changing landscape holistically, striving to empower its associates - the company’s term for employees - with productivity tools that will, in turn, deliver the best membership experience for customers.
Its Digital Product and UX teams engaged with argo to inform a customer platform strategy focused on three core areas:
argo looked at the challenge through the lens of service design, choreographing the interactions of Sam’s Club associates toward a deeper understanding of how the tools they use shape the experiences of Club Members. Conducting intensive qualitative research with associates onsite in their workspaces, the argo team was able to better understand everyday workflows to extract insights for an app strategy that mapped to user needs.
In addition to qualitative research, argo conducted an atomic-level audit to assess the current landscape of over 70 apps used by Sam’s Club associates. We were able to extract patterns, decipher workflows, and construct a mental model for how the new app ecosystem could come together.
Defining a Design Language System (DLS)
With an app strategy defined, a system was needed that would provide the solid structure and scalable platform to build world-class tools for Sam’s Club Associates. The resulting DLS, named ‘Blue Steel’, was constructed using 5 key inputs: app audit, trendscape, brand guidelines, design principles, and user research.
Carrying the experience through the front door
With key strategies in place for building software, we looked at how to extend the experience and bring it to life in the Clubs. With a focus on making it easy for members to get help or assistance from associates when in the Club, we developed a journey map of key scenarios and touchpoints between members and associates.
Informed by our in-Club research, we also defined guiding principles to consider when designing hardware experiences:
Holistic - Part of a larger system that integrates digital and physical components across member and associate touch points.
Visible & transparent - Agents must be visible to both members and associates involved in transactions, with transparency of information for both parties.
Discreet - While visible, agents need to be discreet and noticeable only to the members and associates involved.
Fast & responsive - Member help and escalation paths are extremely time-based. The system needs to be fast, with feedback loops that keep the member and associate aware of request status.
With these principles front-of-mind, we developed a system that focused on providing Member assistance in the Club — making it easy for members to get help and associates to respond accordingly. The result is an intuitive, actionable app experience that will ultimately find its way into every Sam’s Club workplace.