Almost every aspect of the way we shop, sell and connect is evolving. With shifting spending patterns and unpredictable global events, consumers are reprioritizing everything from how they shop to how they experience life — and their expectations are transforming quicker than ever. For retailers, the question becomes: How can brands build lifelong relationships?
“There’s no doubt that consumer habits have shifted post-COVID, but for those who have been in retail for any length, behaviors have shifted over time consistently even before the pandemic and certainly during,” says Sam’s Club’s Diana Marshall.
“At Sam’s Club, we have to remain focused on listening to our members and serving them better daily. We monitor member expectations and behaviors closely with a focus on weekly Net Promotor Scores. Through this member-obsessed approach, we’ve been able to adjust and adapt, leveraging both technology and convenience to improve our experience.”
Since becoming executive vice president and chief growth officer for Sam’s Club in March, Marshall has helped the retailer stay ahead of changing consumer habits with member-obsessed and data-driven strategies. In a session at NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show in January, Marshall will share how retailers can future-proof connections to consumers as they continue to reprioritize their lives.
NRF contributing writer Sheryll Poe spoke with Marshall about leadership, consumer expectations and technology.
You began your retail career at Walmart 18 years ago, and over the years, you’ve worn a lot of different hats at Walmart and Sam’s Club. Tell us about your current role and responsibilities.
I was named EVP and chief growth officer for Sam’s Club in March. In this position, I lead many businesses within Sam’s Club, including membership and marketing, ecommerce, Sam’s Club Member Access Platform – our retail ads business, and financial services, as well as the corporate strategy team. My mission is to keep Sam’s Club on a growth trajectory by identifying and developing opportunities to serve members better, and, in the process, create new revenue streams.
How would you define yourself as a leader? What kind of things do you do to motivate your team?
I would define myself as a collaborative and empathetic leader. I believe in fostering a culture of trust and transparency and ensuring everyone understands the mission we are focused on achieving. I try to engage and motivate my team in several different ways, including actively listening to them, encouraging open dialogue and creating a supportive and inclusive environment that promotes well-being and a spirit of innovation.
In addition, I like to have fun so you may hear me laughing a lot as I try to keep things lighthearted.
Let’s talk about growth. What milestones are you most proud of and what are you looking toward in the future?
We’ve had a lot of big milestones recently, including hitting all-time highs in both Plus membership and member count, which is super exciting.
On ecommerce, I’m most proud of how we are reducing friction in the warehouse club experience. We launched curbside pickup in 2020, delivery from club in 2022, and now we are fulfilling over 70% of our digital order units from the club. We’re really excited as we think about how we differentiate through our omnichannel offerings, which are driving a significant portion of our growth.
Another thing I’m proud of is our Sam’s Club Member Access Platform, which is among the first — and possibly the only — retail media platform connecting search and sponsored product ads to offline sales. Finally, on financial services, Money magazine recently cited our Sam’s Club Mastercard as the best for gasoline (for the second year in a row) as well the top warehouse club credit card in the grocery category. I’m super proud of the work the team has done on our value.
As far as what I’m most looking forward to, it would have to be scaling personalization to create improved member engagement, which ultimately leads to renewal.
How do you collect feedback from Sam’s Club members on the shopper experience, and how does that help develop and grow revenue streams?
We are fortunate in that our members pay to shop with us, and we know the only way to keep them renewing their membership year after year is by listening and acting on their feedback.
We look for feedback in multiple ways, both quantitative and qualitative. Methods include gathering NPS data, monitoring social media trends, doing fireside chats with our Happy Hosts and Member’s Mark communities, and conducting regular surveys.
What excites you most about the future of retail?
The thing that excites me the most is that I get to work with an incredible team to create the future. I expect member and consumer behavior to continue to shift and our ability to move with speed to adapt will be critical.
The pace at which technology and AI are advancing creates huge ways for us to innovate faster than ever and it’s so exciting that we get to be a part of it. But one thing you can count on is that we will remain member-obsessed in all the choices we make as we create the future.