Why Sam’s Club’s Media Biz went from advertising to “member access”

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Sam’s Club, the membership-based retailer owned by Walmart, recently rebranded its advertising business as a Member Access Platform (MAP) as it charts its own course alongside other platforms. emerging forms of retail media.

The notion of “member access” is what sets Sam’s Club apart from other retailers that focus entirely on advertising as a way to monetize customers, said Lex Josephs, Sam’s Club vice president and general manager of the MAP business. .

“These words are super intentional, that this is an access platform, because we intend not only to advertise, but to have multiple business models,” he said. she stated.

Even so, at least for now, MAP activity is close to other Retail Media Networks (RMNs). Advertisers may purchase sponsored search results or product listings on the Sam’s Club site and app. And Sam’s Club works with The Trade Desk on audience extension campaigns to target members on the web – the same arrangement The Trade Desk has with Sam’s Club’s parent company, Walmart.


But the plan is to move MAP from an online advertising platform to an omnichannel way to reach Sam’s Club customers in the real world or in other environments. For back-to-school marketing, for example, Josephs said the club environment offers more direct and creative ways to reach the right buyers.

Rather than Kraft or Whirlpool ramping up their auction activity in August because college students stock up on mini-fridges and macaroni and cheese, those brands can use the in-store “club environment” so shoppers can have a idea of ​​how the merch and layout will work in their real dorms.

Other NMRs also combine programmatic campaigns with in-store activations. Walmart or Sam’s Club advertiser budgets often come from the same teams that purchase particular shelf space or cardboard cutouts for a store aisle. But Sam’s Club membership data is a major differentiator.

That same college-bound shopper browsing Target’s website may be looking for items like a mini-fridge, a new floor lamp, and a toiletry bag, giving a strong impression that they’ve gone off to college. But since Sam’s Club is a membership model – every customer is logged in, as they have to pay a fee and have an account to shop there – it’s not about guessing and modeling an unknown user on behalf of advertisers , said Josephs. Sam’s Club knows the age, demographics, location, and complete purchase history of that member or family.

“Membership data is very different from other proprietary datasets, mainly because everything is 100% traceable,” she said. “It also gives us a good understanding of the arc of what the members do in their lives.”

Marketers are losing their ability to understand individual customer journeys in light of privacy changes on Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and in cookie-based web browsers, Josephs said. Other retailers may know that a sponsored search listing led to a purchase, but still may not place that purchase into a single, known customer journey over time.

A Sam’s Club membership is also, essentially, a subscription, which makes Sam’s Club an attractive media partner for brands, she said. Currently, Sam’s Club offers membership added value and benefits such as fuel discounts, credit card partnerships for extra points, and discounts on items like eyewear and pharmaceuticals. They are, however, fairly typical loyalty programs.

The next phase for Sam’s Club could be analogous to how subscription media companies use their monthly or annual fees for partnerships. Amazon Prime members can bundle into a discounted Washington Post subscription, Spotify and The New York Times have teamed up for joint subscription promotions, and Netflix comes free with the most expensive T-Mobile contracts.

Target and Disney have a huge strategic marketing partnership. But if Target were a subscription company, the two could forge an even deeper connection by, say, offering a free year of Disney+ to its members.

Sam’s Club has a few other notable distinctions from standard NMRs, according to Josephs.

On the one hand, it adopts third-party verification on its attribution reports. Part of the MAP rebrand is an enhanced partnership with IRI, which attributes sales based on impressions served by MAP or The Trade Desk on behalf of Sam’s Club. For now, IRI is the only third-party conversion attribution provider on the platform, although Sam’s Club may eventually add other measurement partners, she said, as well as other partners. DSP and identity. On the DSP and identity front today, its only partners are The Trade Desk and LiveRamp.

Sam’s Club is also looking to hire a data strategy measurement and information monetization manager, Josephs said. (In case that sounds like you.) This new role is part of a broader expansion of data and analytics beyond just delivering ad units and attributing last-click sales or add-to-cart actions.

Going forward, she said marketers working with MAP could dive into Sam’s Club data in a secure environment (ahem…LiveRamp is their cleanroom partner) to understand their own customers and buying behaviors. beyond the context of optimizing an advertising campaign. (Kroger has started a similar project to offer its data as a standalone analytics asset, based on Snowflake cloud data and cleanroom product).

“What we’ve noticed is that there are a lot of companies in retail that are leading with their advertising,” Josephs said. “But they don’t necessarily lead with their client.”

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