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March 1, 2024

Sam’s Club Is Remaking the Warehouse Club Experience with Technology

Posted In: Retail Articles

Sam’s Club wants to transform the warehouse club experience with technology that makes shopping in the environment easier and faster.

In a blog post, Todd Garner, interim chief product officer, Sam’s Club, noted technology can provide better shopping and working experiences. Applying technology to Sam’s operations is an ongoing effort, and Sam’s has established Clubhouse, a new 37,000-square-foot design think studio set to open this summer. Once completed, the studio will become an innovation engine where the company can continue to test products and design new ways for consumers to shop and employees to work.

Waiting in checkout lines is probably the most tiresome part of shopping at a club, particularly at peak times when schedules force many consumers to shop. Scan & Go has been a particular innovation first implemented by Sam’s in 2016. Giving members the ability to shop and pay on a mobile app and skip the checkout line has changed how many consumers have shopped at Sam’s Club. During the past three years, Scan & Go adoption has surged by 50%, with one in three members now a regular user, Garner observed. Recently, Sam’s addressed member feedback to improve the platform, incorporating upgrades such as EBT SNAP acceptance, multi-transactions, Scan & Go Fuel, Scan & Go Café and personalized suggestions.

Garner added that Scan & Go regularly generates net promoter scores over 90, demonstrating it is resonating with members.

At the Consumer Electronics Show early this year, Sam’s Club unveiled a first-of-its-kind exit system that uses computer vision and digital technology to make verification of receipts and exit processes easier. Cameras capture shopping cart images, and, using artificial intelligence in the background, the system automatically verifies receipts, eliminating the wait at the exit while also leaving more employees free to engage with members. Sam’s is piloting the exit system at 10 locations, with plans to roll it out to all its clubs by year’s end, making it the first retailer to implement this type of technology at this scale, Garner asserted. 

Sam’s keeps expanding the benefits members and workers can tap through apps. Today it features an AI-powered “Did You Forget” prompt that helps shoppers remember favorite items as well as access to Sam’s Cash, which helps members apply their earned rewards. To support staffer roles, Sam’s Club introduced AI for Inventory Intelligence in 2022, the first commercial application of the inventory scanning technology anywhere in the world, Garner maintained. By now, the inventory scanning towers that do the work, retrofitted on top of autonomous floor scrubbers, capture 22 million images daily, gathering valuable inventory information. With the inventory intelligence system in place, employees can more readily keep favorite products in stock and accurately priced, which also gives them more time to interact with members.

The delivery of services and support functions is a big part of how Sam’s Club is applying tech improvements to the shopping task. Its MyClub application aggregates relevant and personalized actions, insights and associate needs. Sam’s has introduced new functionality to simplify work. The Own Your Inventory application, for instance, receives automated inventory actions and reports from the scanning tower, then delivers them to associates digitally, while the Fresh application aids associates in identifying the right quantity and specifications for all fresh items that are produced daily at Sam’s Club locations. Then there’s Ask Sam, a digital assistant providing staffers with quick access to information so they can assist members with queries. Last year, on average, users asked more than 700,000 questions each week using the application.

As it continues to evolve, Sam’s is designing new ways to use applications to ensure every worker has access to the tools they need when needed, Garner wrote. With ongoing innovations and pilots, Sam’s will continue to invest in the digital tools and insights available to employees.

Some technological employment is general, as in the case of Scan & Go, but some are more specific. Feedback indicated cake ordering at Sam’s was a hassle, prompting the introduction of digital cake ordering at 30 locations. With the new automated system, members can customize their cake, add to cart, schedule their cake pickup and shop for other groceries and supplies in a single transaction. Plans call for digital order to roll out across the entire club portfolio this year.  

Garner made the point he spends his days with product developers, data scientists, programmers and engineers who are helping Sam’s integrate robotics, machine learning and AI into sales floor and operations in transformative ways. It’s not technology for technology’s sake, he insisted, but Sam’s way of focusing on member and employee pain points is by rolling out new technology that provides convenience and connection.

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