Sam’s Club to open dedicated innovation space

sams club innovation space
Sam’s Club is building a new collaborative design studio.

Sam’s Club is building a design studio on its Bentonville, Ark. campus.

The studio will mark the warehouse club retailer’s first dedicated space for innovating, creating, and collaborating among different departments.

In a corporate blog post, Martin Granstrom, VP, head of product design & research, Sam’s Club, said the retailer decided to create the studio in response to the development of technology-driven offerings such as endless aisle, omnichannel commerce, and “phygital” retailing.

In addition, Granstrom said Sam’s Club’s need to rapidly launch omnichannel services such as scan and ship, curbside pickup, and scan and go in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has required the retailer to evolve the way it delivers product, design, and service.

“Our design studio will serve as an idea factory, where anyone in the company can test, exchange, and collaborate on projects that push our business forward,” Granstrom said in the blog post.

The retailer is building on its existing collaborative design and development approach, which it calls an “experience team model.” This means cross-functional teams across engineering, product management and design work together to first understand business and member value, then align on what problem they should solve.

“To support end-to-end problem solving and enabling cross-functional teams to collaborate, we needed a structured process to anchor on,” said Granstrom. “Insert our design thinking process, being customer-obsessed, and empathizing with the customer.”

By building a design studio, Sam’s Club seeks to put design thinking at the center of its enterprise, democratize innovation, and integrate physical and digital design elements. The retailer seeks to ease collaboration with external partners by providing a neutral, workshop-based space that will enable physical product and hardware testing beyond its current space constraints.

In addition, Sam’s Club sees its investment in the design studio footprint as a communication of its commitment to being a design-led organization.

McDonald’s to build new customer experience/innovation hub
Sam’s Club is not the only retailer creating a collaborative space dedicated to company innovation. McDonald’s Corp. recently announced it will bring multiple departments together in a facility called “Speedee Labs” at its global headquarters in Chicago.

Speedee Labs will be focused on driving the customer experience and supporting innovation. The new facility will utilize a combination of McDonald's existing footprint, as well as an additional 15,000 sq. ft. of leased space within the same building as its headquarters. Employees from McDonald's corporate office and the company’s existing innovation center in Romeoville, Ill., will collaborate on end-to-end development of restaurant solutions and technologies.

Speedee Labs expects a phased opening to begin in the second half of 2023, which is when employees currently operating services out of the innovation center will relocate to McDonald's headquarters. McDonald's plans to relocate all jobs from its Innovation Center in Romeoville to Speedee Labs. Since opening in 1995, the center has offered live restaurant testing, and more recently remote and simulation-based training, to help refine global operations and develop new solutions to improve experiences for customers and employees.

Sam's Club, a division of Walmart Inc. operates nearly 600 stores across the U.S., including Puerto Rico.

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