Sam's Club Evolves Pickup Service

Patrycja Malinowska
Director, Member Content, P2PI
Patrycja Malinowska profile picture

Sam’s Club has made several changes to its online order pickup experience since it quickly expanded the service to all clubs at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the most noteworthy update for brand marketers seeking to get on the shopping list being the addition of a sampling program.

Earlier this month, I received a small, reusable shopping tote containing several freebies with my Sam’s Club pickup order. Unlike the pre-pandemic, in-store sampling typical of warehouse clubs that showcased new and exciting food products — many of them warmed up — the pickup sampling experience delivered more mundane, everyday products, at least in this case.

Sam's Club Pickup Insert

The booklet encompassed ads for:

  • Nestle's DiGiorno French bread and rising crust frozen pizza.
  • Huhtamaki's Chinet dinner plates, cut crystal plastic cups, and comfort cups with lids — each item with its own holiday-themed page.
  • Tyson Foods’ flagship crispy frozen chicken strips, presented as “a family favorite for every meal."
  • TH Foods' Crunchmaster multi-grain crackers paired with B&G Foods' Spice Islands pumpkin pie spice alongside a recipe for “harvest pumpkin dip” and a $1 Instant Savings offer.
  • A Sam’s Club-exclusive, 18-count variety pack of Hint Water including a new strawberry lemon flavor.
  • A variety of Church & Dwight Co.'s Vitafusion gummy vitamins.
  • Two of Church & Dwight's L’il Critters gummy vitamin SKUs.
  • Church & Dwight's OxiClean stain remover powder.
  • Georgia-Pacific's Pom bath tissue in a 45-roll pack presented as “enough for all season.”
  • Keurig Dr Pepper's Evian and Bai packs (the former under license from Danone) for a “healthylicious holiday season.”
  • Two types of Nudes dog treats from Tyson's pet division.
  • New mixers from Sanpellegrino.

Two of the items were from national brands: a small bag of PepsiCo’s Doritos and a trail mix bar from General Mills’ Nature Valley. The other two items were from private label Member’s Mark: one fair-trade certified “donut shop” coffee pod and an individually packaged, scented flushable wipe.

While the retailer is now limited to sampling packaged goods, a booklet contained within the tote extended the experience beyond the handful of freebies. The 16-page, palm-sized booklet plugged a variety of food and beverage items, household products, OTC SKUs and pet products. (See sidebar for full list.) Each item or brand received a full-page ad, and all but one included one or several bar codes shoppers were invited to scan within the Sam’s Club mobile application to add that particular item to their online shopping cart.

While that functionality was on the fritz when I tried it, it certainly could facilitate easy purchases. I thought maybe the item I tried to scan had sold through, as the holiday theme evident on many pages of the booklet indicated the insert was past its optimal distribution date, but a colleague reported the app was functioning properly for her.

The one brand that didn't employ a bar code in its booklet ad was Sanpellegrino, which instead depicted a QR code intended to launch the brand’s virtual bartender to help “enhance your cocktail experience for the holidays.” However, that seasonal destination is no longer supported. The Sanpellegrino brand page within still touts the program and delivers three cocktail recipes incorporating the mixers.

Additional updates to the Sam's Club's pickup experience include the expansion of curbside pickup — originally available only for seniors — to all members and the addition of a new requirement for government-issued photo identification to be shown at the time of pickup. Unfortunately for me, the latter update cancelled out the former during my last pickup order.

I pulled up to a designated pickup spot, checked in via my mobile phone, and waited for an employee to roll out a flatbead full of hundreds of dollars of items and load it into my car. However, when I didn't have a photo ID that exactly matched the name on the order — I'm not the primary cardholder — the employee informed me he had to cancel it. I followed him into the warehouse club as he wheeled my heavy load back inside and left it at a self-checkout register for me to start a new order, personally scan each item as I transferred it to another flatbed, checkout and wheel everything back out to load into my car.

Next time, I'll make sure to fill in the alternate pickup name slot as I'm checking out.