Sam’s Club is upgrading tire shopping with a time-saving app

Alongside today’s news that Walmart will soon introduce in-home grocery delivery in select markets, the company today announced another new effort similarly aimed at saving customers’ time. But this time, the focus was on Sam’s Club members, and specifically addressed the long process involved with buying car tires. To address that challenge, the company is rolling out a new “Sam’s Garage” app across the U.S. in July that will turn what used to take half an hour into a five-minute process, the company claims.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon recounted a fun anecdote about his tire-buying experience at a Sam’s Club, which prompted the creation of the new app.

“A few months ago, I ran over a nail and ruined a tire, so I went to Sam’s Club for help. It was a Saturday, and we were busy. At one point, I’m third in line with two members behind me. Our associates are working hard, but the process is time-consuming,” McMillon said. “As we’re all waiting there in the Bentonville club, I can tell that one of the members has recognized me. He doesn’t say anything – but he doesn’t have to. His facial expression says it all: ‘How does it feel to wait in line, dude? Surely you can do something about this,’ ” he recalled.

He later suggested to Sam’s Club CEO John Furner to re-evaluate the tire buying experience, and the new Sam’s Garage app is the result.

Typically, tire buying can be a longer process, and one that can even involve archaic systems like paper catalogs. The same was true at Sam’s Club, which McMillon said relied on “multiple systems, paper catalogs and a large desk” to service its tire buying customers.

Nine months after the CEO waited in line, there’s a new app for tire shopping aimed at helping Sam’s Club members. The app, Sam’s Garage, will run on mobile tablets and can do things like scan the customer’s membership card to pull up their associated vehicles. It then helps the Sam’s Club associate filter possible tire options based on their conversation with the customer about their tire needs.

For example, there are buttons to tap for things like “responsiveness,” “winter traction,” “wet road handling,” “offroad,” “ride comfort” and more.

As they continue, more filters appear, allowing the associate to narrow down the tire options based on other factors like in-store availability, special offers, brand, load index, speed rating, mileage warranty and many more options. They can even do side-by-side comparisons of different factors.

They can then tap a button to get an estimate, email estimates or place an order.

“This is what it looks like to be a digital company. Sam’s Garage will be rolled out nationwide in July. From concept to design to rollout in fewer than nine months from that Saturday when I was buying tires,” McMillon said.