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Sam’s Club execs discuss their playbook at Elevation Forum

BY DSN STAFF

Sam’s Club SVP health and wellness Jill Turner-Mitchael at Drug Store News’ 2014 Industry Issues Summit. 

Bentonville Ark. — “Are you comfortable being uncomfortable?  None of us like being unbalanced, but that tension is where creativity lies and many of our best ideas are birthed. And if we try to eliminate uncertainty, often times that is the precursor to a fall.” That was the opening idea shared by Elevation Forum founder and Mack Elevation Forum leader Dan Mack. “Being comfortable is code for not pressing into new ideas and pushing the boundaries of your business. The goal is to learn to enjoy the feeling of being uncomfortable with status quo thinking and status quo growth.” That was one of twenty five unique characteristics of today’s growth organizations discussed during the elevation forum moderated by Mack.

On Sept. 22 the forum group and keynote speakers, Jill Turner-Mitchael, Senior Vice President, Sam's Club Health and Wellness and Trent Weller Vice President & DMM Health and Beauty also laid out their current growth strategies including Sam’s strategic agenda, new member services, targeted membership goals, their four core business segments, how to optimize member insights, omni-channel philosophies and ideas for creating meaningful differentiation.

Turner-Mitchael shared, “It is the job of merchants to say ‘no’ more than they say ‘yes’. This statement is driven by the unique shopping experience we offer members based on our business model.   There’s no such thing as an average club; one size does not fit all.  We need to make sure that we are not trying to achieve an average, but rather putting the right items in the right clubs – driving the best results.”  

The second part of the forum focused the special cultures that create distinct brands.  Mack shared, “Perfection is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves; the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough. Perfection kills curiosity. Imagination and mistakes actually spur momentum, not perfectionism.” The group brainstormed twenty one attributes of companies that build distinct brands and organizations.  

The winners embrace diverse ideas, people, cultures and points of view.  They learn to authentically celebrate diversity on all levels and these organizations go deeper with the most valuable customers, ensuring the whole team is aligned to their top customer’s agenda. Ironically, these companies practice and encourage risk taking and decisive decision making. Furthermore, they get to the blind spots, threats & risks buried in your organization, while not being afraid of “others” uncovering their warts.

The thing I appreciate the most of these companies, shared Mack is that “they ask bigger questions positioning them to think and act very differently than their nearest competitors.”

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IBM keeps offering new retail capabilities

BY Dan Berthiaume

ARMONK, N.Y. — IBM aims to let retailers get more personal with their customers. As part of a general release of new cloud-based industry platforms, IBM is introducing a Retail Consumer Experience platform.

The platform is designed to allow retailers to deploy increasingly sophisticated and personalized engagement capabilities. These capabilities will be based on contextual, relevant, multi-channel, end-to-end personalization designed around the customer’s unique interests. Also of potential interest to retailers is a new “Insights for a Connected World” platform designed to collect and process Internet of Things data from connected devices.

As part of this initiative, IBM announced the opening of the first IBM Cloud Business Innovation Center in Bangalore, India. Cloud Business Innovation Centers allow global clients to work side-by-side with IBM solution consultants, researchers, digital marketing and experience design experts to personalize the industry platforms to their specific needs.

IBM has been busy lately in offering new solutions and labs for retailers. On Sept. 24, IBM opened a new global headquarters for IBM Commerce and new hub for its Watson artificial intelligence platform in San Francisco.
 
In addition, IBM is partnering with The Fung Group on a new large-scale laboratory for rapid experimentation with omnichannel retail technologies, which opened in Shanghai, China on Sept. 24. The willingness of a global technology leader like IBM to invest so much in offerings that directly or indirectly serve the needs of retailers is another sign retail technology is moving from a niche area of IT to a central focus.

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Walmart continues expansion of grocery pick-up service

BY Mike Troy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart has extended its grocery pick up service to eight additional markets and is alluding to the possibility of a more significant roll out in the months ahead.

The nation’s largest food retailer said its free online grocery pickup service was being offered at select stores in new markets including, Atlanta, Nashville, Tucson, Colorado Springs, Charlotte and Fayetteville, NC., and Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah. Expansion of the convenient service is something customers continually ask for, according to Michael Bender, executive vice president and COO of Walmart Global eCommerce.

“We’ve tested online grocery options – both pickup and delivery – in a handful of markets across the U.S., and each time we’ve added a new city, our customers begin using the service faster than they did in the previous one,” Bender said. “In the coming weeks, we’ll add stores in even more markets to our list of pickup locations.”

Walmart began offering the service several years ago with a test in San Jose, Calif., not far from its Global eCommerce headquarters. It was subsequently expanded to Denver, Phoenix, Huntsville, Ala., and the retailer’s hometown of Bentonville, Ark.

The most recent expansion of the pick up service comes two weeks prior to Walmart’s big annual fall investor conference in mid-October where the company can expect a lot of tough questions about its deteriorating sales performance and rising expenses which have caused shares to tumble to the low $60 range after nosing above $90 back in January. The meeting is typically a venue where Walmart showcases new growth initiatives and an announcement about a more meaningful roll out of the grocery pick up service would be consistent with the company’s long held view that its expansive collection of physical assets and increasingly robust digital capabilities uniquely position it for long term success.

“With 70% of the U.S. population living within five miles of an existing Walmart store, this is an idea that simply makes sense for us,” Bender said of the pick up service. “We have the locations already in place, and with our website and mobile app expertise, we’re able to combine those things in a way that helps our customers save time and still take advantage of our everyday low prices.”

To use the service, customers shop their grocery lists online, choose a time to pick up their orders and then pull in to a designated parking area at their local stores where Walmart employees load the purchases into the car.

“It’s all the convenience of a specially trained personal shopper, plus the things you’d expect from Walmart: the same low prices we offer every day in our local stores, no extra fees or charges and the ability to place an order and pick it up the very same day,” Bender said.

If Walmart is uniquely positioned with its physical and digital assets, Bender is uniquely qualified to make the service work on a national level. He is one of the few executives in Walmart’s Global eCommerce organization with a first-hand understanding of the complexity and operational challenges associated with executing the grocery pick up service.

Prior to being named to his current position as COO of Global eCommerce, a role in which he is tasked with the integration of digital commerce into new and existing formats, Bender spent four years as executive vice president and president of Walmart West business unit of the retailer’s U.S. stores division. Bender joined Walmart in 2009 and gained real world operational experience first as a vice president of operations responsible for Arizona, Nevada and Utah and then as a senior vice president of operations with added responsibility for Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

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