Sam’s Club is trying to offset lethargic sales by adding premium products that appeal to a wealthier clientele. The move distances the retailer from its low-priced parent, which has arguably become its main competition.

“We want to be less of a Walmart,” CEO Rosalind Brewer told The Wall Street Journal.

However, the parent store’s success comes not only from the products it sells, but also from digital prowess. Walmart placed second in L2’s 2014 Digital IQ Index for Big Box stores, achieving a ranking of Genius thanks to its thorough investments in digital, from pioneering click-and-collect services to innovative mobile offerings. In contrast, Sam’s Club ranked 20th, earning a spot in the Average category.

The study found that Sam’s Club lagged behind other Big Box stores when it came to omnichannel investments, an area of increasing importance: sales that start online and wrap up offline will account for 59% of U.S. retail sales by 2018. While Walmart ranked among the industry’s omnichannel role models, Sam’s Club remained firmly focused on its brick-and-mortar stores.

Omnichannel investments by store

Walmart’s commanding social media presence also illustrates the parent retailer’s superior investments in digital. The study found that Walmart had not only the largest Facebook community than any other Big Box store, but also more absolute engagement than any other brand besides Macy’s. Sam’s Club trailed behind in both metrics: Marshalls had 73 times Sam’s Club engagement on Facebook, despite having a community approximately the same size.

Facebook engagement by store


The same held true for YouTube, where WalMart had the most-viewed brand channel, and Twitter, where Walmart joined the top 10 Twitter accounts. In contrast, Sam’s Club did not rank among the top 10 on either platform.

Walmart has also launched innovative features on its app, such as Savings Catcher, which compares prices with those of competitors. These findings suggest that the road to success for Sam’s Club might not only involve changing its physical offerings, but also stepping up its digital investments.

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