Our innovation is due to a couple of things. First thing is our collaborative culture. One of the things that is top of mind for us is our member and member experience, we call it being “member-obsessed.” Our strategy is truly focused on our members, and I think that ignites innovation. We are constantly thinking about finding new ways we can make the member experience even better.
The second thing is our stellar leadership. Over the years, we have had many great leaders who make decisions like hiring dedicated engineers and software developers just for Sam’s Club. Such decisions basically created a product mindset for us. So, our collaborative, member-obsessed culture along with product mindset is how we try to innovate new ways of solving problems, rather than jumping to solutions we are already seeing in the industry.
It was definitely a shift. We’re actually owned by Walmart so initially we used to share our team with them, but it was after we got our product team in place, we had the resources we needed to shift our mindset and pursue our top priorities.
Another aspect is the way we approach problems and pain points.
We believe in falling in love with a problem rather than just coming up with solutions instantly. When we do see a pain point, we usually ask ourselves why it’s there. Then we look at the data and get our UX team to look at the data, get into the field, and gather insights around the experience.”
So essentially, when we shift from just coming up with a solution to falling in love with a problem, we also go into design mode and know the problem we’re solving is the right problem to solve.
To begin with, the executives at Sam’s Club are great and they understand the product mindset and what we are trying to do. It’s tempting sometimes to just jump into a problem and come up with a solution, but at the end of the day, we must look at the bigger picture. Sometimes I remind everyone of the benefits of falling in love with a problem and the risks of not. I also share examples of the past times when we may not have fallen in love with the problem, and therefore didn’t reach our full potential and may have wasted efforts and resources. At the end of the day though, we still have to be diligent and work fast. That’s just the nature of the job.
I get together with my team, direct reports, and the leadership as often as I can, and sometimes we travel together and go to different retailers. We’re constantly looking for good ideas that others have that we might be able to leverage or improve upon. It’s about getting in the field to get a feel for what’s going on and build on that.
We also value member feedback. We track net promoter scores and ask members questions about their experience, both digital and physical, about different stores. We believe our members are our best source for where to disrupt because they tell us what to work on and improve.
I think the lines between digital and physical have blurred. Initially I used to think of digital as anything on a screen, but that’s just not true anymore. Now, digital is just one aspect of the experience for both members and associates. But I'll add, digital almost always means simplification, improving experiences, and creating efficiencies.
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