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How Sam’s Club Leverages Online Content to Boost Consumer Confidence

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Brands and retailers often use reviews, ratings and other types of content to boost consumers’ confidence about a pending purchase. At a time when uncertainty about decisions large and small is still the norm rather than the exception, Sam’s Club has made confidence-building a central tenet of its online merchandising.

“We want to increase our members’ confidence in their buying decisions, and that’s where user-generated content (UGC) comes into play and has been key for us,” said Robelle Mancilla, Director of Site Merchandising and Site Operations at Samsclub.com. “We know our members do a lot of research; they read reviews and look at what other consumers’ experiences are. Discovering how members use the product and whether they love it helps supplement their not being able to touch and smell items — particularly since we haven’t developed a ‘scratch-and-sniff’ capability on the website.”

Mancilla spoke during a Retail Talk webinar in February sponsored by Bazaarvoice, identifying the many tools the club retailer has used to stay relevant to its members during COVID-19, including:

  • Adding more content and alternative products to out-of-stock pages on its site;
  • Creating a Star Review Program to provide suppliers with reviews from targeted audiences of Samsclub.com shoppers; and
  • Using product scorecards to evaluate how robust the content associated with an item is, including star ratings and how many reviews it has received.

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The panic buying of items like toilet paper, particularly early in the pandemic, prompted Sam’s Club to beef up information on its site for consumers who couldn’t find the products they were looking for. “We want to provide our members with what they need and want, but out-of-stocks still happen, so we wanted to simplify our out-of-stocks page,” said Mancilla. “We began by pushing more product information ‘above the fold,’ including star ratings and prices, as a way to provide alternate solutions.

“Above all, we want to ensure that anything we offer [as an alternative] is available,” Mancilla added. “We want people to feel comfortable in purchasing a different item, particularly if they were looking for a particular brand such as Charmin.

One of the most effective tools for building confidence is customer reviews, and Sam’s Club leverages Bazaarvoice to collect and distribute reviews on its product detail pages (PDPs). “We get thousands of reviews every day, and 70% of those reviews come from brands’ websites,” reported Mancilla. “We believe it’s crucial to look at product ratings, because we won’t offer up promotions or offers for things that have bad reviews or don’t have enough content” associated with them.

Additionally, Sam’s Club monitors the queries consumers pose via its site’s Q&A feature. “We want to provide answers to members’ questions but be mindful of the content as well,” said Mancilla. “We’ve been leveraging the questions and the feedback to improve the content that we load onto our PDPs.”

Get Your Scorecards Here, Can’t Tell the Players Without a Scorecard

The amount and quality of content associated with products is so vital to Sam’s Club that the retailer plans to step up its use of product scorecards in 2021. “We ask, ‘How robust is the content? How many reviews are there?’ We know it impacts conversion, because it shows consumers that we care and we listen,” said Mancilla. “Our ultimate goal is to have products with ratings of at least 4.5 stars [out of five] across the site, because the quality story will be really big for us this year.

Mancilla emphasized that Sam’s Club sees its relationships with suppliers as a two-way partnership. “We want Samsclub.com to be a destination for our members as they look to build their basket and explore more products on our site,” she said. As suppliers seek to place product on the site, “We’re asking how they can help us develop more robust content,” she added.

The retailer also has introduced a Star Review Program to provide suppliers with reviews from targeted audiences of Samsclub.com shoppers. “It’s a quick-turn solution for brands that are seeking to collect reviews [of their products] fast,” said Mancilla.

Any content that Sam’s Club uses must fit with its mobile-first mentality. “We’re offering new experiences, such as our Sam’s Club app, and because they have so much less real estate compared to a desktop, homing in on content will be key,” said Mancilla. “People’s time on their phones is so short and there are so many distractions that we want to provide as much information as possible.”

Sam’s Club continues to look for new ways to enhance content, particularly videos. The retailer is seeking ways to work with suppliers that may not have the resources to produce strong video content. “Producing videos with buyers talking about what they’re passionate about, and why they buy what they buy, gives us an opportunity to leverage social commerce,” said Mancilla. This type of “word of mouth is powerful, because it helps influence and give others the confidence to buy when the product information isn’t sufficient.”

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