With 217 warehouse clubs and more than 5.5 million members, BJ’s Wholesale Club is best known for its massive brick-and-mortar presence. But when the company brought technology veteran Rafeh Masood on as Chief Digital Officer in June 2017, it was clear that BJ’s wasn’t just looking for an e-Commerce upgrade, it was looking for a chainwide transformation — executed at a rapid pace.
During a keynote session at Retail TouchPoints Live! @ RetailX, Masood explained that while his primary goal was “to convince you to shop at BJs.com,” making that happen involved more than simply connecting BJ’s digital and physical channels. More ambitiously, Masood aimed to create a circle of convenience that connected the club’s members to the products, and also to store associates, through an upgraded mobile experience.
Turning this broader mandate into real accomplishments required organizational changes, so BJ’s created a new digital organization focused on primary disciplines such as UX and product. “Vision without execution is hallucination,” Masood told the audience.
Within six months of forming a digital team as part of its “6in6” plan, BJ’s improved on or built out six digital touch points, including:
- The mobile web site (m.BJs.com), which was deployed within 60 days;
- The e-Commerce site (BJs.com);
- Private label brand site BerkleyJensen.com;
- Private label brand site WellesleyFarms.com;
- Boosting Google visibility for both BerkeleyJensen.com and WellesleyFarms.com; and
- BJ’s mobile app, with features such as ‘add-to-card’, a wish list and even deli pre-ordering.
The BJ’s mobile app now has 1.8 million downloads since launch, with 1 million within the first 12 months after deployment. The new mobile experience eliminated 10,000 usability issues, according to Masood.
In coordination with the ‘6in6’ plan, BJ’s worked on a longer-term project known as “Project Leapfrog,” which enabled the company to offer same-day delivery and in-club pickup, cutting average production time down to three weeks.
“We built a brand new platform,” Masood said. “We upgraded our web store, upgraded our order management and moved to cloud. We deployed and are working on more than 400 features. The sizing of the effort was 45 man-years worth of work that was delivered in 14 months. We have a digital coupon program that we launched during this time frame as well.”
Top 10 Lessons From Two Years At BJ’s
Having worked at BJ’s for more than two years now, Masood highlighted 10 lessons he and his team have learned as they instilled these “Digital 2.0” initiatives across the company:
1. Move from project thinking to product thinking. "Instead of start and end dates, we focus on continuous improvement and evolving our experiences.”
2. Instead of thinking of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), think of Minimum Viable “Proud” Products (MVPPs), which is usable and valuable.
3. Plan the work and work the plan. “We took a page from Google’s playbook and embraced ‘OKRs,’ which stand for objectives and key results.’ Just like a CEO of a public company has objectives and key results for three months or a quarter and is reporting on that one metric that matters, which is earnings per share, everyone has that one metric that matters on the team. Everybody is the CEO of a work unit."
4. Develop agile product teams.
5. Instill hyper-transparency and collaboration — via an open floor concept.
6. Embrace a “fast, but not reckless” mentality through “5S” principles. The 5 S’s stand for Speed, Simplicity, Scalability, Support and Security.
7. Make work visible so that digital teams can examine the workflows back and forth, as well as feedback across teams. This visibility helps determine quality issues and enables the teams to discover which processes can be improved and even potentially automated.
8. Storytelling, where products teams do “Show and Tells” to illustrate what member-facing projects they’ve been working on.
9. Develop a strong partner ecosystem.
10. Be an “Experience First” company (as opposed to a data/AI/digital first). “Our members don’t care what stack you are on. They want to make sure the experience is secure, safe and convenient and it’s adding value to them for being a member of BJ’s,” said Masood.
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