Sam’s Club is planning a new store in the Dallas area that will offer Scan & Go self-checkout, among other high-tech capabilities, according to a Sam’s Club press release.
The announcement came a week after Walmart China and China’s Tencent announced a partnership to pursue smart retail with the first small-format grocery store there. This follows a two-month pilot of Scan & Go involving Tencent’s WeChat mobile messaging and payment platform, according to a joint press release from Walmart and Tencent emailed to Retail Dive.
In addition further optimizing Scan & Go via WeChat, the partners also plan on "digitalizing and integrating the in-store shopping experience… to make shopping easier and more enjoyable. They will also explore how Walmart can offer more personalized services to users of Tencent’s social platforms," Walmart and Tencent said in a statement.
The new Sam’s Club store planned for the Lower Greenville neighborhood of Dallas this fall, with the goal for the location to be a high-tech showpiece, "perfect for testing innovations in a live shopping environment," according to a Sam’s Club release.
In addition to offering checkout using Scan & Go, Sam’s Club said the new club location will provide a more digital experience and have improved capabilities, including fast membership sign-up, self-serve returns and digital signage throughout. Much of the inventory will revolve around frequently purchased consumables and convenience items, groceries and grab ‘n go meals.
Half a world away, another unit of Walmart has partnered with a local technology giant with some of the same aims in mind. The Walmart China/Tencent alignment follows the successful pilot program for Scan & Go on WeChat, described as a "mini-program" that took place in several Walmart stores in Shenzen, China.
As with Scan & Go at Walmart in the U.S. — a program that was curiously ended here in May — visitors to the stores in China can use their mobile phones to scan product barcodes and pay, bypassing checkout. Over the course of two months, the capability was used by 30% of shoppers, according to the partner statement. It’s now available at Walmart stores in 28 Chinese cities, with expansion to more than 400 stores there expected within the year.
Plans to offer Scan & Go at the new Sam’s Club in Dallas, as well as in Walmart stores in China suggest that Walmart shutdown of the service at its own U.S. stores will not be the last we have heard of Scan & Go. Sam’s Club locations present the retailer with a membership-oriented shopper that might be more interested in such a convenience, and find it easier to use.
If Scan & Go does well at other Walmart-owned retail properties, perhaps we haven’t seen the last of it in Walmart-branded stores either. In China, so many consumers have grown accustomed to mobile payments that it just makes much more sense to offer it there.
The partners also plan to continue innovating on the payments front, developing facial recognition and other types of self-service payment.
But the Walmart/Tencent partnership isn’t just about faster checkout. It’s about innovating on multiple levels, allowing Walmart to leverage the massive WeChat instant message community and using social advertising and other tools to refine online and offline marketing capabilities to provide customers with more relevant promotions.
The retail partners also aim to build up a digital membership ecosystem, expanding the availability of digital membership cards already in use at Sam’s Club. Also, Walmart China store associates will use the corporate version of WeChat to communicate more efficiently with one another, and even to connect with customers.
Ultimately, the new Sam’s Club concept and the Walmart China/Tencent partnership demonstrate that the world’s largest retailer is fully embracing the notion that in-store experiences need to evolve with the help of mobile and digital technologies, in every part of its widely dispersed empire. Even its rapid expansion and quick shutdown of Scan & Go at Walmart stores in the U.S suggests a readiness to experiment and be decisive about the results. Having a willingness to test the waters and innovate instead of sitting back and seeing what the other guy does first is a quality that would serve many retailers well right now.