- Sam's Club's app recorded nearly twice as many downloads in 2020 as its closest club competitor, Costco, according to data from Apptopia. Sam’s Club racked up about 9.6 million downloads during the year, while Costco saw users add its app to their devices 4.9 million times. BJ’s Wholesale Club was third, with 3.1 million downloads.
- Sam’s Club also generated the highest percentage of positive app reviews among the three retailers, the data analysis firm reported in a blog post. More than 77% of reviews for Sam’s Club’s app were positive, while approximately 72% of reviews for BJ’s app fell into that category. Conversely, reviewers gave positive grades to Costco’s app only about 27% of the time.
- Costco’s app lagged behind Sam's Club's in download volume and user satisfaction during a period when it didn’t offer curbside pickup even as Sam’s Club and BJ’s rolled out the service nationwide last year.
Despite each having about the same number of U.S. physical locations, Sam’s Club and Costco spent 2020 far apart in app popularity.
Beyond far outpacing its chief rival in terms of the number of times people downloaded its app and the proportion of positive reviews its digital shopping tool received, Sam’s Club also came out on top when Apptopia looked at the number of daily active users for each app last year. The Walmart subsidiary saw that figure rise substantially in 2020, peaking at nearly 1.8 million while Costco saw its daily user count stay mostly flat after briefly surpassing the 800,000 mark during the early weeks of the pandemic.
Like Costco, BJ’s saw its active user count stop growing and even decline after surging early on in the pandemic. BJ’s, which generates a fraction of the revenue brought in annually by either Sam’s Club or Costco and has about a third of the locations as its competitors, was No. 3 for daily app usage.
Sam’s Club may have benefited from improvements the company recently made to its app, according to the blog post. User reviews indicated that many customers liked Sam’s Club's Scan & Go feature, which lets shoppers avoid checkout lines in stores, while many users said the Costco app was not well integrated with the in-store experience, according to Apptopia.
The figures from Apptopia suggest that Costco may have seen its digital engagement with customers take a hit last year because it did not offer curbside pickup, an e-commerce option that has proven immensely popular with shoppers across the retail landscape in the COVID-19 era, even as its rivals embraced it.
Sam’s Club brought curbside pickup service to all of its approximately 600 stores in mid-2020, while BJ’s reached that milestone at its more than 200 locations in August.
In January, Costco, which operates 558 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, started testing curbside pickup at three stores in Albuquerque, New Mexico, by using its own workers and technology from Instacart. Already, the service's basket sizes have exceeded the company’s expectations during its early weeks, Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said during an earnings call earlier this month.