At 32,000 square feet, the scan-and-go location will be a quarter the size of an average Sam's Club store. The planned opening comes as Amazon considers expanding its own cashier-free chain.

Another retailer is experimenting with the idea of going cashier-free and processing in-store purchases with customers’ smartphones instead of humans.

Sam’s Club, the chain of warehouse clubs owned by Walmart Inc. (No. 3 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000), says it will soon open an experimental, cashier-free, “mobile-first” location in Dallas.

At the new store, called Sam’s Club Now, customers will use a smartphone app to enter. Customers will then scan the Universal Product Codes on items to add and subtract them from the app’s shopping cart. As the shopper leaves the store, an associate will scan a checkout code generated by the app. The purchase will be billed to the shopper’s saved credit card account.

The app-centered, cashier-free nature of Sam’s Club Now makes it similar to the automated Amazon Go stores operated by Inc. (No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000).

The Sam’s Club Now app includes a “smart shopping list” feature that auto-fills a member’s shopping list using purchase data analyzed with machine-learning technology. The app also uses wayfinding and navigation capabilities to generate an in-store map and lead customers to the products they are looking for. In addition, shoppers can use the app to place and pick up an order within an hour.


Eventually, Sam’s Club says the app will map the best route through the store by combining information from in-store beacons—small pieces of hardware that can sense a smartphone’s location—and a shopper’s smart shopping list. Also coming, Sam’s Club says, is augmented reality that could provide information—in the form of graphics or animation—about scanned products. Augmented reality uses smartphones to add 3D images to a user’s view of the real world.

At 32,000 square feet, the Sam’s Club Now is a quarter the size of an average Sam’s Club store, the retailer says. That is still much larger than Amazon Go stores, each of which is 2,100 square feet or less.

The Sam’s Club Now concept is an evolution of Sam’s Club’s two-year-old Scan & Go app, which allows customers to scan and pay as they shop in other Sam’s Club locations, the retailer says. Sam’s Club says more than 90% of members who try the Scan & Go app use it again on their next trip.

“This is an opportunity for the brand to experiment with an entirely digital shopping experience — not just from the consumer’s side but also from the retailer’s side,” says Jonathan Cherki, CEO of ContentSquare, an e-commerce technology vendor that works with retailers and brands, including Walmart.


Cherki says consumers are rapidly changing the ways they integrate digital technology into their shopping routines, so the best way to figure out what they really want is is to observe and analyze their real-world behavior. Because this new store utilizes an app, he says, Sam’s Club will be able to accurately track consumers’ behavior and collect valuable data. “This will ultimately allow further personalization of service and experience,” Cherki says.

The Sam’s Club announcement comes at a time when Amazon is reportedly considering a plan to open as many as 3,000 of its Amazon Go stores over the next few years.

At Amazon Go stores, shoppers use a smartphone app to enter the store. Once they scan their phones at a turnstile, they can grab what they want from a range of salads, sandwiches, drinks and snacks—and then walk out without stopping at a cash register or having to scan the product. Sensors and computer-vision technology detect what shoppers take and bills them automatically, eliminating checkout lines.

Adding 3,000 convenience stores would make Amazon Go among the biggest chains in the United States. As of now, the Amazon website lists just six current Amazon Go locations—three in Seattle, two in Chicago and one in San Francisco—with three more coming soon.


Earlier this month, Sam’s Club said it plans to expand grocery delivery via the app-based grocery delivery service Instacart to 100 more locations by the end of October, reaching a total of 350.