Will new Scan & Go tech turbocharge Sam’s checkouts?

Discussion
Photo: Sam's Club
Mar 08, 2019
Matthew Stern

This spring, Sam’s Club will begin piloting an upgrade to its Scan & Go technology that is meant to enable customers to scan purchases even faster while they shop.

The new solution uses machine learning and computer vision to identify products when a shopper points their smartphone at them, according to TechCrunch. In Sam’s Club’s standard app, users are required to find a barcode on the product and scan it before putting it into their cart. The item is then added to their digital cart so they can pay via app. The ability of customers to scan each item without flipping them around to search for a barcode cuts down demonstrably on the time it takes.

A demonstration video indicates that on a test item, the new app takes only 3.4 seconds to scan, down from 9.3 seconds when a customer has to search for the barcode. The technology came out of the Sam’s Club Now high-tech test store in Dallas, which opened last year. The first tests of the new technology will be at this store.

Scan & Go technology has proven a success for Sam’s Club, a warehouse club retailer owned by Walmart, despite its continued failure to catch on with customers at its parent company’s main brand stores. Limited adoption may be due, in part, to the perception of shoppers that scanning item after item is more of a chore than a convenience.

 

The upgraded scanning feature brings Scan & Go closer to resembling the Just Walk Out technology that Amazon has been rolling out in its Go concept convenience stores. Utilizing the processing power of people’s individual smartphones, rather than requiring a full tech stack at the shelf level to identify items and tie them to customers, could make the enhanced Scan & Go more scalable and affordable than Just Walk Out technology.

But there’s a concern surrounding the reliability of the computer vision-based Scan & Go. Whereas a barcode is definitively tied to a product, the new solution’s efficacy depends on it being able to consistently identify products correctly.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Sam’s computer-vision enhanced Scan & Go technology achieve a successful level of adoption among Sam’s Club members? How does this new technology stack up against other automated checkout technology solutions available in the market?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Scan & Go is already a terrific convenience."
"It’s almost always more efficient for the customer to be checked out by a cashier, provided the store has enough cashiers."
"There may be quite a bit of time spent checking that the product actually was recognized and came up correctly in the digital cart. Not such a big deal for two or three items."

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16 Comments on "Will new Scan & Go tech turbocharge Sam’s checkouts?"


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Charles Dimov
Guest

I love the idea. Anything to make the warehouse club checkout lineups shorter is a good thing! It will take time for adoption. Not all people will want to use it – as many are opposed to self-checkout today, for example. But for most people, the advantage of time and aggravation saved in the checkout line can only help.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust

The Scan & Go technology is excellent, but again retailers may be missing the mark. Yes, customers want convenience so first, it is imperative that the technology works and works well without the customer having issues and getting frustrated. Second, with this technology let’s hope that Sam’s doesn’t use it as an excuse to eliminate more store personnel to save money to pay for the technology. Convenience is essential, but excellent customer service is vital. The only way you’ll have fantastic customer service is by having enough store level associates who are well trained and know how to “wow” the customer.

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

Scan & Go is already a terrific convenience. The scanner usually “finds” a bar code before I do and I find myself looking twice to make sure that it actually captured it so fast. The next improvements should focus on the exit process at Sam’s. As more members use Scan & Go, having a dedicated “fast lane” for those shoppers (rather than having to line up with those brandishing receipts) would speed things up even further. Also, there needs to be a process that allows members to buy alcohol using Scan & Go. It’s kind of crazy that as much as Sam’s is focusing on wine and beer, members are sent to the regular check-out lane for those purchases.

Susan O'Neal
BrainTrust
5 months 9 days ago
It’s almost always more efficient for the customer to be checked out by a cashier, provided the store has enough cashiers. This is true not only for Scan & Go, but also for self-checkout – scanning a whole product vs. a barcode isn’t going to change that. As such, Scan & Go and self checkout are both efficiency/cost cutting plays for the retailer and they are not about customer service or improving customer experience. In the very rare case that someone values avoiding human contact, there are plenty of less frustrating options – like online shopping. Which brings me to the next point, from a RetailWire post just yesterday “Where are grocers failing?” which pointed out that one of the things retailers are doing WRONG is providing insufficiently pleasing human contact. “Shoppers leaving without pleasant human contact: Over half (53 percent) of survey respondents were highly satisfied with their visit if they had a pleasant interaction, versus only 30 percent highly satisfied without one. Yet 71 percent did not have any pleasant human interaction on… Read more »
Bob Amster
BrainTrust

We are talking very few seconds difference. If the product recognition isn’t perfect and fast, I prefer finding and scanning a barcode. Scanning the barcode is infallible and fast.

Nir Manor
BrainTrust

This upgraded Scan & Go system is definitely an improvement and is faster and more friendly to shoppers. However, this is still far from the convenience of seamless checkouts – just grab and go. It will take a few years until the various solutions of seamless checkouts will be both commercially ready for large format stores and at price points that would make sense for retailers to invest and get sensible ROI. Once this inflection point is reached seamless checkout will become the standard and shoppers will expect to just grab and go. Until then, improved Scan & Go is a viable interim solution.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust
Mohamed Amer
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
5 months 9 days ago

Turbocharge may be too optimistic here, but it is a definite step forward in giving customers more options.

I’m a big supporter of retailers introducing new ways of doing old processes and it’s even better if they can eliminate these old processes altogether. I view Sam’s Scan & Go as another piece of a technology and convenience puzzle that Walmart is racing to craft together ahead of the competition.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Using machine learning to identify products without locating and scanning the barcode is a great convenience for shoppers that will make scanning easier – if it works as expected. Self-scanning is still in its infancy from an adoption perspective, even though it has been around since Stop & Shop introduced Shopping Buddy 15 years ago (2004). For early adopters, they will try any new technology, but if it isn’t truly more convenient, they won’t embrace it.

Self-scanning is a desired feature, especially for younger generations. According to BRP’s Consumer Survey, 67 percent of Gen Z and Millennial consumers would be more likely to shop at a store that offered a self-scanning mobile app instead of a store that doesn’t offer this service. However, the interest level of older consumers (Gen X and older) was only 33 percent.

When Scan & Go gets more accurate and more convenient than self-checkout and staffed checkout lines, we will see a significant increase in adoption.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I love the ease of shopping at Amazon Go and the Scan & Go technology sounds like the next best thing. But I am visualizing myself pushing a cart down an aisle, grabbing a product I need, scanning it with my phone, checking to make sure it scanned correctly, putting it in the cart, and then checking the list that is also on my phone, stored in the Alexa app. I shop big and for me this sounds like a nightmare. But my nightmare is a dream to shoppers who want to avoid the checkout lines.

Yesterday, we talked about grocery stores shoppers leaving “without pleasant human contact.” Scan & Go certainly isn’t going to help fix that perception.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

This “convenience” may be cool at first. But I have never believed that
encouraging shoppers to do the work of scanning item after item enhances the shopping experience. In the long run, this convenience will be discontinued.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

At the moment while this sort of Scan & Go ideas seem really useful, I wonder if that’s actually the reality. It seems like a great quick way for someone to buy their lunch, as does Amazon Go, or to stock up on a few key essentials like milk and bread. I wonder though how convenient it is when doing a whole shop? Until this type of tech becomes super accepted and mainstream, for a lot of shoppers I feel there may be quite a bit of time spent checking that the product actually was recognized and came up correctly in the digital cart. Not such a big deal for two or three items, but a real time suck for a week’s shop. I think it’s great that Sam’s is working to make the tech better and to minimize necessary action from customers, but I think there’s some way to go before this is actually more convenient than being checked out by a human.

Joy Chen
BrainTrust

The Scan & Go technology can provide convenience only if their current customer base perceives this as convenient. Testing this concept is an excellent idea to get some consumer feedback. Although this may be an option for Sam’s to reduce staff, that would offset the convenience or customer service benefits.

Mark Heckman
BrainTrust

Sam’s and Walmart are both actively reducing the number of cashiers on duty, thus creating an environment for automated Scan & Go or self-checkout to be a welcomed alternative to standing in a lengthy line. Subtle manipulation aside, I agree with the other panelist who believe this is an inevitable step in the right direction, if the technology proves to be accurate and shopper-centric. It should also serve as a harbinger for further change as given the negative impact in the short term on cashiers, who will be well served to expanded their skill sets beyond checking out shoppers.

Paco Underhill
BrainTrust

Scan tech has been part of the European Grocery scene for more than a decade. The incentive is both to reduce labor cost and speed check-out. For Sam’s, the first customer will probably be the small business contractor/buyer who is in the store weekly. Training them to use the system makes sense. The broader consumer market is harder, especially at Club stores where store visits are not weekly. How much will that customer retain in between visits?

US grocers are uncomfortable also because scan tech reduces impulse purchases at check-out — candy and magazines — which are high margin items. But yes. Pick up your cart, set up your bags. Place your purse and kid in cart seat. Pick up a scanner. Weigh the cart with kid/bags/pocketbook. Shop — the scanner records the product, price and weight. Ready to leave? Weigh your cart again. If it checks out at the right weight — scan your credit card and leave….

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Once the customer gets comfortable with Scan and Go, they will use it. It’s the same for any technology; the customer has to learn how to use it. That’s what grocery stores are doing with self-service. That’s what the airlines did when they taught customers to book tickets and check in online. When the customer experiences the convenience of Scan and Go, they won’t want to check out any other way.

Allison McGuire
BrainTrust

Yes, let’s keep the evolution of technology that improves the shopping experience going! I am a proud Sam’s Club shopper and gravitated toward self checkout along with everyone else. But now those lines are just as slammed as the checker lines. Adoption clearly isn’t a problem, so let’s take it to the next level and spend less time standing in lines!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Scan & Go is already a terrific convenience."
"It’s almost always more efficient for the customer to be checked out by a cashier, provided the store has enough cashiers."
"There may be quite a bit of time spent checking that the product actually was recognized and came up correctly in the digital cart. Not such a big deal for two or three items."

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