PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

Sam’s Club Scans the Future With AI-Powered Checkout Technology

Sam’s Club Scans Future With AI-Powered Checkout Technology

In the battle for the future of shopping, Sam’s Club is betting on artificial intelligence.

Since January, the Walmart-owned retailer has rolled out AI-powered checkout technology at over 120 stores.

Using a combination of AI, computer vision and digital tech, Sam’s Club’s system identifies what’s in a shopping cart, confirming customers have paid for their items without requiring an associate to check their purchases before leaving the store. The technology, first unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show, promises to transform the grocery shopping experience.

“The success of this deployment stems from the immediate improvement it brought to the experience for Sam’s Club members,” a Sam’s Club spokesperson told PYMNTS. “Since its implementation, more than half of the members in clubs with this technology experience a seamless exit process, resulting in a 23% faster exit time for all members. Additionally, there has been an 11% increase in member satisfaction regarding the speed of exiting the club. Sam’s Club’s unique position as the first retailer to extensively deploy and develop this technology in-house has allowed them to address member concerns effectively. The plan is to extend this exit technology to all clubs by the end of 2024.”

The move builds on Sam’s Club’s existing digital solutions, such as Scan & Go. Sam’s Club and Walmart debuted Scan & Go in 2017 at some stores, with Sam’s Club filing a patent for the Scan & Go tech in 2019. The tech allows users of the retailer’s mobile app to fill their carts and scan their phones to exit the store, with the receipt coming through digitally.

Several retailers have explored AI checkout technology. Amazon, for example, is repositioning its use of an AI system that allows customers to exit stores without making a payment.

Amazon Go has been refining this technology for nearly a decade, and now convenience stores are beginning to adopt it as well,” Carol Grunberg, chief business officer at the payment software company Yuno, told PYMNTS. “This isn’t just a glimpse of the future; it’s already here.”

Combatting Theft

Sam’s Club has seen initial success in the deployment of its AI and computer vision technology primarily because it addresses the biggest challenge of scan-and-go technology, which is theft, Yaniv Zukerman, chief marketing officer at Cust2Mate, which makes computerized shopping cart systems, told PYMNTS. He said that by integrating these technologies, Sam’s Club can provide an autonomous checkout solution that minimizes theft without adding friction for the shopper.

Additionally, stores can reallocate employees to other areas, such as customer service or store management, he said.

“For consumers, this technology offers a seamless and faster shopping experience, reducing wait times and eliminating the need for manual checks at exit points,” he said. “However, AI systems focus more on streamlining transactions rather than enhancing customer interaction or providing added value through personal engagement.”

Benefits for Consumers

The company spokesperson said the AI checkout technology at Sam’s Club addresses a concern for customers: waiting in line for receipt verification at the exit.

“With AI optimizing efficiency, this digital innovation not only streamlines the exit process but also allows our associates to focus on member assistance, ensuring an enjoyable shopping experience,” the spokesperson said.

AI checkouts can benefit retailers by processing transactions faster, João Diogo Falcão, chief technology officer at AiFi, which makes autonomous checkout tech, told PYMNTS. Additionally, this technology frees staff to focus on more valuable tasks instead of checking receipts or scanning items at checkout.

“It’s clear that people are ready and eager for this type of technology in these types of environments,” he said. “There is a willingness, and this type of technology is easy to adopt and very intuitive.”

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