Sam's Club streams big-ticket test

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Buying pearls, diamonds and other high-price items is not typically associated with the likes of Sam's Club. But this membership-based, discount store chain and Wal-Mart Stores division would like them to be and executives said they hope streaming media will do the trick.

Sam's Club is one of the more recent retailers to test if rich-media technology will have an effect on marketing products and sales. Its deal with Premier Retail Network, announced last week, will allow marketing of all Sam's Club products through streaming audio and video featured on the renovated Sam's Club site (

The main idea is that visitors will be more likely to buy high-cost items if they have more information. But Sam's Club members need not worry about their pocketbooks; videotapes, household products, DVDs, CDs, electronics also will be promoted via streaming audio and video. Eventually.

"What I've seen on the Internet is a lot of streaming video associated with promoting items like DVDs or CDs, and anything above that has only been nothing more than entertainment," said Scott Sandlin, director of Sam's Club's online arm. "We have received a lot of feedback from our members regarding our site and feel they would buy more, including higher-priced items, if they had more information on it," Mr. Sandlin said.

The education will come in the form of streaming audio and video tutorials about product categories rather than a specific item. The Sam's Club site does not have the streaming media promotions available for all categories, but the retailer plans to roll them out through the fourth quarter. The site is, however, testing three categories: CDs, home videotapes and pearls. Essentially a user will click on an image of a category and a video screen will pop up streaming video, audio and text information relative to the category.

The site has been up since late June and has had its struggles. Much like a version of Wal-Mart's main site ( that relaunched earlier this year, Sam's Club navigation was not as simple as users would have liked. They also wanted more product pictures.

"This is not like having a brick-and-mortar store; it's a process and we just need to evolve," said Mr. Sandlin. When asked about marketing plans, Mr. Sandlin would say only that Sam's Club members would be informed of the new feature.

Meanwhile, again is revamping its site, but a spokeswoman declined comment on whether it would use this technology to promote its products. Wal-Mart temporarily closed while it prepares for a relaunch.

As for Premier Retail Network, known for developing interactive video for retail store kiosks, this is its first Web project. Premier executives are convinced online Sam's Club shoppers are ready for the new-media experience.

"We've seen the success these interactive kiosks have in the retail stores we work with, like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City and Sears; this is just a natural progression," said Charlie Nooney, president of Premier. Premier also said it will place its in-store kiosks in some of Sam's Club's 469 stores around the U.S.

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