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Sam’s Club preps to open first cashier-less location

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Sam’s Club is getting ready to give Amazon Go a run for its money.

Walmart’s warehouse club division is opening it’s first store that will be supported by a mobile experience. The new Dallas-based location, called Sam’s Club Now, is a retail club that doubles as a technology lab. The location will “incubate, test and refine technologies to help define the future of retail,” Jamie Iannone, CEO, and executive VP of membership and technology said in a blog on the company’s website.

The 32,000 sq. ft. store, which is 25% smaller than an average Sam’s Club, was initially announced in June. At the time, Iannone said the club would feature an assortment of between 1,000 to 2,000 items comprised of “convenience items, fresh foods, grab-and-go meals, and consumable items members buy most frequently.”

To shop for these items, customers will interact with technologies such as computer vision, augmented reality (AR), machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics. All solutions will be available through the company’s Scan & Go app.

Here’s how customers will shop in the store: As members launch the Scan & Go app, machine learning leverages customer purchase data to create an electronic shopping list. Customers can add or remove items, and as merchandise is scanned, the list will automatically move chosen items to the customer’s mobile basket.

Shoppers will navigate the store through voice search functionality that is combined with new way-finding and navigation features that electronically direct users directly to desired merchandise. Looking ahead, Sam’s Club plans to use beacon technology and a member’s smart shopping list to map out the best route through the club, according to Iannone.

The retailer also plans to leverage AR technology to bring items to life, share new ways to use them, and highlight product features, including how items are sourced. Members can also use the app to place and pickup an order within an hour.

Scan & Go was the most relevant technology to apply to the store experience as more than 90% of members who try the app use it again on their next trip. The app’s regular usage is up 40% this year, according to Sam’s Club.

While the club is fostering a customer-lead experience, the store will have associates on hand to complement their shopping trip. Renamed Member Hosts, these associates will also be armed with “new technology that will allow them to serve members better and faster.”

Walmart initially said the new store would open in the fall. Iannone didn’t reveal a specific date, but did report it was “opening soon.”

Going forward, the location will be used to test other technology solutions. The include electronic shelf labels that will instantly update prices. The company also plans to test more than 700 cameras to manage inventory in new ways, and optimize the layout to make shopping effortless, Iannone revealed.

“We’re putting Sam’s Club on the cutting edge of innovation in the warehouse channel,” he said.

“There will always be something new to test as we’ll regularly add new functionality to the app,” Iannone said. “This makes it an ideal space to test new technologies that will make operating the clubs easier and more efficient.”

The store takes a swing at Amazon’s growing cashier-less store format called Amazon Go. The online giant now operates six Amazon Go locations. Three locations are located in the company’s hometown of Seattle, one in San Francisco, and two in Chicago, where two more are in the works.

In addition to making it easier to shop at Sam’s, customers will be drawn to the “experiences” these solutions will create at store-level.

“Customers are seeking 'experiences' over simple purchase transactions, and many stores are stepping up and providing more immersive in-store shopping experiences, driving more traffic to their brick-and-mortar locations,” said Bill Friend, VP of Fluent Commerce, a distributed order management company.

For a sneak peek inside Sam’s Club Now, click here.

For more slideshows, click here.

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