After hinting at a cashierless store concept in June, Sam's Club on Monday revealed more details about "Sam's Club Now." The store, which will open "soon" in Dallas, "will be the epicenter of innovation for Sam’s Club," the company said in a press release.
The new store will also be viewed as a mobile-first technology lab that will incubate and refine new tech services. In an effort to highlight employees too, the store will feature a new role called "member host," in which associates are seen instead as the "concierge of the club."
Scan & Go, which rolled out at the big-box retailer two years ago, is at the core of this new store. Using the app, customers shopping this new concept will be able to access "smart" shopping lists, which use machine learning and purchase data to auto-fill lists; voice search and beacon-enabled navigation to find products; augmented reality features that highlight items; one-hour pickup; and cashierless check out.
At first glance, this new concept seems to rival the quickly scaling Amazon Go model. While it is another attempt to eliminate the same dreaded pain point — the checkout line — the technology, services and assortment offered differ greatly. For one, you can't just walk out of this store.
At the Sam's Club's store of the future, customers (like those shopping at Amazon Go) must download an app. Then, each item for purchase must be scanned individually before being placed in a cart. (At Amazon Go, that process is eliminated thanks to camera technology.) When shoppers are ready to check out, they must track down a store associate to scan a barcode on their phone before leaving.
Another major way that the store differs from Amazon Go comes down to size. The 32,000 square feet store will be about a quarter of the size of most Sam's Club stores, but colossal compared to Amazon first 1,800 square foot Go store. Within that space, though, Sam's Club will offer all of its usual categories like fresh meat, dairy, CPGs, and grab-and-go food among others, whereas Amazon Go's store focuses strictly on convenience items.
Among other tech features, Sam's Club will use the store to test electronic shelf labels that update in real time. In the future it plans to use more than 700 cameras to manage inventory and optimize the store layout.
Sam's Club, and parent Walmart, have made big tech moves over the last year in an effort to rival Amazon as well as make shopping at stores more convenient in the digital age.
"Giants like Walmart are leveraging technology to help consumers achieve their buying goals in a way that takes into account this multichannel approach, and to deliver shopping experiences that are relevant and successful both digitally and physically," Jonathan Cherki, CEO of e-commerce analytics platform ContentSquare, told Retail Dive in an email. "This store will also provide the retailer with a unique data advantage, allowing them to track the behavior of the same consumer offline and online."