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Sam’s Club to test new scanning technology

Upcoming pilot at Sam’s Club Now to allow barcode-free scans

Sam’s Club has filed a patent for new technology expected to greatly speed scanning for its Scan & Go service.

The new functionality will enable Sam’s Club members to scan products by holding their smartphones over a product, without having to find and capture a barcode on the package, Eddie Garcia, vice president of product and member experience, said in a blog post this week announcing the technology.

Plans call for the new scanning capability to be tested this spring at Sam’s Club Now, a smaller warehouse club that Sam’s opened last October in Dallas as an incubation site for future store concepts and technology.

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Members will be able to try the faster scanning functionality using the Sam’s Club Now app. In the blog, Garcia showed that a customer scan of a 40-pack of bottled water took 3.4 seconds with the new technology, compared with 9.3 seconds using the current barcode-based Scan & Go service.

“Since launching our Scan & Go two years ago, we’ve seen its popularity continue to increase. With the upcoming test, we’ll enhance the experience with the launch of a technology using computer vision and machine learning,” Garcia said. “Rather than having to locate the barcode and scan it just right, the camera in the app will identify the product with a simple hover and add it to the member’s shopping list.”

The new technology can recognize products from any angle, making it easier for members to scan a large number of products in the cart, especially items on the bottom rack.

“We also anticipate incorporating this same technology into the tools our associates use,” Garcia added. “By making their jobs easier, they're able to spend more time serving members.”

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The 32,000-square-foot Sam’s Club Now location is piloting such technologies as computer vision, augmented reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, wayfinding and navigation. Through the testing, the Walmart warehouse club chain aims to develop a more interactive shopping environment and seamless omnichannel experience.

Among the key shopping features at Sam’s Club Now are smart shopping lists, which employ machine learning and purchase data to auto-fill a member’s shopping list. As items are scanned, the list automatically updates and moves them to a mobile basket. Customers, too, will be able to get around the club more easily using voice search and new wayfinding and navigation features, which can provide a pop-up map that takes members to what they need. Also through the Sam’s Club Now app, members will be able to place and pickup an order within an hour.

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