In brief: Sam’s Club, a division of Walmart that is a members-only warehouse store similar to Costco, is preparing to open a smart-store in Dallas. The store will act as a testing facility for a variety of retail technologies.
"Sam’s Club Now," as it will be called, will feature mobile checkout. There will not even be self-checkout kiosks. Instead, customers will scan items with the Sam’s Club Now mobile app. It is based on the current “Scan & Go” app already in use in regular locations to avoid the checkout lines. You just scan items as you put them in your cart and then pay once you are ready via the app.
TechCrunch notes, the Sam’s Club Now app will be considerably different from Pay & Go though. In addition to using it to scan and pay for items, the app will have a “wayfinding” feature for easily navigating the store. It will also have “augmented-reality features, an AI-powered shopping list, and more.”
At first, the wayfinding will be rudimentary. Initially, users will just be presented with a map of the store that shows which aisles have any given items. Later they will be installing beacons throughout the store. The app will then use the customer’s shopping list to guide them efficiently through the store.
“The shopping list will also be powered by A.I. Using a combination of machine learning and customer purchase history, the list will be pre-populated with customers’ frequent purchases. Those items can be removed from the list, if not needed.”
“Member Hosts” will be posted throughout the store to assist customers as needed to ensure a smooth shopping experience. The hosts will act more like concierges, helping customers find items and showing them how to scan and pay with the app.
Other than having no cashiers, the stores will look mostly like regular Sam’s Club locations albeit about one-quarter in size. Likewise, it will employ around one-quarter of the number of associates than a regular outlet. However, the company claims that reducing staff by replacing them with technology is not the goal of Sam’s Club Now.
“Eliminating friction doesn’t mean replacing exceptional member service with a digital experience,” said Sam’s Club President and CEO John Furner. “We know our members expect both.”
In addition to the high-tech front-of-the-house systems, Sam’s Club Now will also use cutting-edge technology behind the scenes. One of these features will be an inventory tracking and management system. It will employ over 700 cameras to track inventory and optimize the store’s layout. Additionally, shelves will have electronic tags that can be updated remotely removing the need to print paper signage.
Most of the technology that will be used in the store has been built and developed in-house.
“The vast majority of technologies that we’re building here are technologies that we’ve developed in-house. There may be pieces of modules of things that we’re using from third parties. But the majority are systems that are building on the technology that we’ve developed here. That allows us to iterate and move pretty quickly with it.”
Sam’s Club Now will be sending out invites as early as next week to current members in the Dallas area to come to test the store for about a week. The grand opening is loosely scheduled for a couple of weeks after initial testing.