Walmart’s new tech-playground, innovation center, and store

The latest Sam's Club outlet in Dallas, Texas will serve as the company's testing ground for bleeding-edge technologies in the retail space.
30 October 2018

This isn’t just a store, it’s a tech innovation hub. Source: Walmart

Walmart’s warehouse chain Sam’s Club has just announced that it will be opening a new center in Dallas, Texas.

The company’s vision for the new center is to build it into a mobile-first shopping experience powered by the new Sam’s Club Now app.

“At its core, Sam’s Club Now will be a technology lab that doubles as a live, retail club. It’s where we will incubate, test and refine technologies to help define the future of retail,” said Sam’s Club CEO Jamie Iannone.

Earlier this year, Walmart announced that it will abandon the Scan & Go app that it launched two years ago, because it wasn’t performing as well as it was supposed to.

However, it seems as though Sam’s Club is going to re-introduce the app into the market and check out how it performs with customers, possibly with new features and improvements.

The new Dallas store will take Scan & Go and make it the foundation of the new Sam’s Club Now app, which all members will use to shop.

“This will be an interactive experience and they’ll help us test and refine new features before we launch them nationally. There will always be something new to test as we’ll regularly add new functionality to the app,” said Iannone.

The Dallas store is also expected to test new technologies such as smart shopping lists, wayfinding and navigation, augmented reality, and one-hour club pickups.

Of these, wayfinding and navigation and augmented reality sound most interesting, from a customer’s point of view. Here’s how they’re expected to function:

The mobile app will allow customers to use their voice to search for what they want in the store so they don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for what they want or ask other patrons or assistants. In fact, an advanced map will pop up and take members right to what they need.

Sam’s Club expects that eventually, the stores will be able to use smart beacons and a member’s smart shopping list to help map the best route through the club.

In terms of augmented reality, the store is expecting to create new ways of explaining to customers how items on inventory are sourced from the market or highlight cool features they offer.

In the future, the company also expects to use augmented reality to transform members’ digital carts into pirate ships and rocket to offer more engaging and interactive experiences.

While primarily driven by the app, innovation at the new Sam’s Club store is expected to be never-ending. The company believes that the 32,000 square foot space is going to be the ideal testing ground for new technologies that will make operating the clubs easier and more efficient.

“We’ll test electronic shelf labels that will instantly update prices, removing the need to print and replace new item price signs. And down the road, we’ll use the more than 700 cameras in the club to help us manage inventory in new ways and optimize the layout to make shopping effortless,” revealed Iaonne.

What’s interesting to note is that Walmart and Sam’s Club are putting a greater emphasis on innovation in the warehouse channel. The parent has already started using VR to train it’s staff across the nation and now, is investing into new technologies such as computer vision, augmented reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotics.

However, Walmart isn’t the only one. Others in the space, be it IKEA, Amazon, Tesco, everyone is rushing to innovate and redefine the retail experience — as soon as possible — to wow the customer.