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Well Played, Sam’s Club, Well Played…


sams and costco


Some Costco customers were unhappy with the news that Costco was ending its relationship with American Express and forming a new relationship with VISA. Costco informed customers they should have received a new VISA card in May or June, and as of June 20th, customers would no longer be able to use their American Express card to make purchases. However, problems arose when some customers didn’t get the new card in time, others were unhappy with the switch, and then others who were ready to abandon Costco all together. This caused many Costco customers to re-evaluate their membership with the retailer.

During all of this, Sam’s Club was paying close attention.

In a bold move, Sam’s Club allowed Costco customers to visit Sam’s Clubs, using their Costco Card, for a short period of time after the announcement – from approximately June 20th to July 4th.

This was an excellent example of how a retailer watched the competitor and took advantage of a potentially difficult situation for Costco customers.

By allowing Costco customers to visit a Sam’s Club, it gave an easy opportunity to check out the competitor, see what they have to offer, and give unhappy customers a chance to make a change.

Why was this such a great move?

  • Sam’s Club quickly identified the pain points of Costco customers. Building on that emotion, they opened their doors to the competitor’s customers at a time when many were already thinking of changing their shopping loyalty. They made it easy to check out the competition.
  • If done correctly, Costco customers could be wooed by Sam’s Club and the retailer could offer these customers the chance to sign up for a membership right then and there, or at least sign up for email notifications or something similar. This is a quick way to grow an email marketing list.
  • The company took advantage of some free marketing & advertising. Realizing that the Costco news would send shock waves across the internet and news outlets, they realized that by taking this step, they would be included in the conversations, thus spreading word of mouth easily and without much advertising spend.
  • By closely monitoring social conversations, Sam’s Club also has another unique opportunity; while the majority of online conversations may revolve around the card switch right now, many customers may also be expressing their dissatisfaction with other aspects of being a Costco customer. If Sam’s is listening, it is giving them the ammunition they need to further develop their marketing content to align with showcasing their strengths over the competition. One of their newer marketing tactics involves mirroring Costco’s new marketing campaign, as seen below.


sams costco hearts


While this was a very popular news story between two large brands, the key takeaway is the importance of competitive intelligence. No matter the size of the company, paying attention to the competition can give a business a much-needed marketing push, or at the very least, learn more about the competitor’s customers and find new ways to engage with them and showcase the benefits of doing business with someone else.