Sam’s Club deploys a self-checkout app

July 20, 2016 10:30 AM

Sam’s Club is turning its in-store shoppers into checkout clerks.

The members-only warehouse is ramping up a new mobile app called Scan and Go that lets shoppers bypass the in-store checkout line. With the app, shoppers scan the products with their smartphone, pay in the app and then leave the store.

Sam’s Club, owned Wal-Mart Stores Inc., No. 4 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, debuted this feature in fall 2015. It is now in 60 stores and the retailer plans to roll it out to 100 more warehouse clubs in August. The retailer plans to have Scan and Go at all 653 clubs by this holiday season, says a Sam’s Club spokeswoman.

Here’s how it works:  Shoppers launch the Scan and Go app, which is separate from the Sam’s Club shopping app. All warehouses have Wi-Fi, which should enable the app to work smoothly throughout the chain. The shopper has to sign in to the app with her membership credentials and save a credit or debit card in the app. When she is in a store and wants to purchase an item, she hits the Scan Barcode button in the app, which launches her smartphone’s camera. She scans the product’s barcode and the item is added to her in-app shopping cart. If a shopper changes her mind, she can remove the item in her physical and app cart.

When she is done shopping she pays in app for the items. She receives a digital receipt in the app that she shows to the store associate at the warehouse door, just like traditional shoppers show a physical receipt at the door. The store associate scans her digital receipt and cross references her cart with the items on her receipt, just like traditional shoppers. Because shoppers are still checked before leaving, Sam’s Club is not worried about heightened theft with the feature, the spokeswoman says. 

The Scan and Go feature aims to save shoppers time. “We wanted to invest in an exciting mobile innovation that would make our member checkout process faster and more convenient,” the spokeswoman says. She did not provide an estimate about how much time shoppers may save if they use the tool.

This isn’t Sam’s Club’s first foray into expedited in-store checkout. Sam’s Club piloted a variation of Scan and Go in 2013 at one store, the spokeswoman says. Consumers could scan items with the app, but they still had to go to the line to pay. The test ended after four months and Sam’s Club went back to improve the experience. After about a year of in-house development at e-commerce research and technology arm @WalmartLabs, Sam’s Club launched the current Scan and Go.

The retailer says it’s pleased with the number of shoppers who are using the new feature so far, although the spokeswoman declined to give numbers. Currently, the Scan and Go app  is only available for Apple devices now, but  Sam’s Club will launch an Android version next week, the spokeswoman says. Sam’s Club is letting shoppers know about the feature via email and on its Facebook pages.

Scan and Go is not meant to replace checkout clerks, as there will always be consumers who prefer to go to the checkout lane, the spokeswoman says. Clerks will be able to shift their attention to other areas of the club, and the new feature will not result in job cuts, she says. 




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