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Doing more with less: How Sam’s Club scaled up conversion by embracing data


5 minute read senior manager of site merchandising, Robelle Mancilla shared how her small ecommerce team embraced data to scale conversion just in time for the holiday season.

Like many teams today, the site merchandising team at were expected to do more with less. What typically takes a team of 20 to perform, Mancilla’s team of five were tasked with managing everything from the homepage to the category pages – with delivery expectations to remain the same, growth plans to continue, and the demand for quality just as high. These five rock star merchandisers had to step up to the plate. And that they did.

With the holidays fast approaching, Mancilla acknowledges how this new challenge was daunting, but she knew the power of her team and reacted with determination.

In the BloomReach article, she explains how her team tackled these new expectations and made their approach to merchandising more effective in the process. She also shared valuable key learnings picked up during this time that can be valuable to everyone in the merchandising space, lean team or not.

Starting with the data_Sam's Club

Starting with the data

In order to be more effective with lean resources, the team’s first order of business was to analyze the trends around holiday shopping.

From here, they noticed the influence marketing campaigns had on their website traffic. Mancilla notes, “The main thing we saw was our traffic spiking when there was marketing, which is great because that means the marketing works.”

However, solely relying on marketing was not a sustainable ecommerce strategy for The bursts of customer acquisitions these campaigns brought in were great but, in parallel, the team set about building a powerful brand that would drive traffic to the site continuously and regularly.

Building a powerful brand

To create this brand the team narrowed their focus to a select number of themes rather than trying to transform their entire offering. Mancilla shared that, “One of our goals is how do we highlight and showcase that is the one stop shop destination for everything people need for the holiday.”

The team then reflected on how this intention could be demonstrated through their online experience and Mancilla concluded, “for us, it’s about the merchandise, it’s about the gifting, and it allows us to showcase the breadth of our assortment.”

From the customer point of view, they wanted to create more personalization with a “story of connection for our customers that we are the one destination for all their holiday entertaining needs.”

Optimizing the customer journey

After deciding their direction from a brand angle, Mancilla’s team started to adjust their digital experience with their brand story always at the forefront.

They examined the data and noted the high traffic web pages – from the homepage to category pages – to look for opportunities to highlight these brand themes. The merchandisers altered their site to tell visitors (through product suggestions, CTA buttons, and inspiring content) the story of and in the end “we reduced a lot of friction points,” says Mancilla. The team made sure this narrative carried over to every device, ensuring cohesion across their mobile, app and desktop sites to guarantee a seamless experience.

Conversion results_Sam's Club

The results

Taking this granular approach to the customer journey (with a lot of testing and iterating along the way) proved effective. Mancilla shared her metrics with us, reporting “At the end of the holiday, we’ve seen a good increase in our visits for those specific categories. It was up by 300% and we also increased conversion by around 14%.”

Mancilla credits the team’s success with “focusing on what the key elements of the business and the brand were, our stories were a lot more engaging and robust. They were focused on the key things that mattered the most for us.”

Key Takeaways:

1) Scale back and look at the big picture

When trying to do more with less, it’s important to shift your focus to the areas that really matter.

Once you realign and focus mainly on what the company stands for, it’s time to make some cuts in your everyday tasks and question, “Do the things that we’re doing still matter? Do they still align with the business in general?” Without strongly uniting over core areas that tie in and are supported by the whole business, it’s impossible for a small team to make their mark.

2) Leverage data

Mancilla and team took two approaches when it came to analyzing their data. First, they looked at it from the perspective of the customer’s shopping experience.  Leveraging insights from past sales, they asked the broad question of, “How do customers shop our experiences and how do you optimize those experiences?”

Second, the team looked at the problem internally. From an operational standpoint they questioned, “How does a group of five people manage the same demand and workload the 19 people have done before?” Leading them to the conclusion that it would be impossible. To overcome this hurdle, they took an effective approach and understood “It was a matter of looking at the 20 percent that’s really going to drive 80 percent of the business.”

3) Over-communicate

To ensure that everyone in the organization could follow and understand the ecommerce team’s efforts, they set about improving communication and ultimately creating transparency on all levels of the company.

One example was to use an Excel sheet that records all of the changes that occur on the website. This included homepage updates and all the different category updates. The sheet was shared across the organization, with VPs, executives and the people ecommerce worked with on a daily basis like operations, project management, engineering and supply chain.

The company-wide document also built up the team’s and the whole organization’s confidence, acting as “a security blanket for a lot of people to know that they have access to what the site merchandising team is doing and they’re confident that our actions can drive revenue and growth for the company.”

Next Steps

From these lessons, the team is planning to use the same strategy and improve on it. This holiday season, Mancilla’s (slightly enlarged) team will follow the same way of thinking, but further optimize and personalize the experience for their customers.

She also added that this time around, the team is looking into the possibilities of site search and how this tool can contribute to the buying journey and help to build out their brand story.

Originally published on BloomReach

Tessa Roberts
Tessa Roberts
Tessa is the Content Marketing Manager at BloomReach, where she is responsible for the management and production of engaging content both offline and online.
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