Sam’s Club Now: Walmart Launches Mobile-First, Cashierless Store


Sam's Club Now

Walmart’s members-only retail warehouse, Sam’s Club, is soon opening a new concept, 32,000-square-foot store as a “technology lab that doubles as a live retail club.”

Walmart’s answer to Amazon Go, Sam’s Club Now is a convenience store concept virtually independent of human staff, and powered by smartphones.

Sam’s Club CEO Jamie Iannone said the company is “very close” to opening the new concept store. “It’s where we will incubate, test and refine technologies to help define the future of retail.”

Technologies being trialed with Sam’s Club Now include computer vision, augmented reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics, with a goal of refining and implementing at 600 locations.

The new store will house more than 700 cameras and use electronic shelf labels that instantly update prices. Smart maps guide the shopping experience in the “epicenter of innovation for Sam’s Club.”

The Sam’s Club Now opening in Dallas lets shoppers use smartphones to scan each item they want with a Scan & Go app, which an employee then scans with a QR code on the shopper’s phone.

App features include smart, auto-fill shopping lists based on purchase data; in-store voice search and maps combining beacons with smart shopping lists to map optimal routes; ability to transform a digital cart into a pirate ship or a rocket; and one-hour pickup.

The tech warehouse store will give customers a “mobile-first experience” and store associates will have the new status as “the concierge of the club.” Employees will be “member hosts,” and the company said, “We’ve known for a long time our associates make the difference, and that won’t change just because shopping preferences evolve.”

Amazon and Walmart are fierce competitors for consumers, and the Sam’s Club iteration is projected to grow 40% this year, with digital growth up 35% in 2019.

“They are one of the few incumbents that has effectively landed some counter punches on Amazon,” said Jason Goldberg, head of the commerce practice at SapientRazorfish.

Slashgear notes, “There are some obvious differences between Amazon Go, the cashier-less store, and Sam’s Club Now, not the least of which are the customers they cater to. Sam’s Club Now is a large warehouse-style store where customers will have access to a larger variety of goods. Amazon Go is a convenience store, the kind of place someone can pop into on their way home or on a lunch break to grab a couple meals and drinks.”

Sam's Club Now

On the digital drawing board is facial recognition. Walmart filed for an in-store system “that uses video from checkout to identify customers and measure  biometric data—like facial images—to potentially call in staff to intervene if a shopper appears unhappy and/or correlate transaction data to detect changes in purchase habits due to dissatisfaction,” reports Adweek.

The era of cashierless retail e-commerce is mining new real estate and mindshare as it balances consumer convenience with inventory management in a model that portends a brave new world.