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Walmart-owned Sam’s Club takes store exit tech to next gear

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Jan 10, 2024
Illustration of a shopping cart full of giant check marks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sam's Club plans to employ AI at its club locations, granting the retailer a "different total addressable market" as it builds digital capabilities in-store and online, CEO Chris Nicholas tells Axios.

Why it matters: The move illustrates parent company Walmart's bid to become a major e-commerce player.

Details: Sam's Club's latest tech advancement, announced Tuesday at CES, aims to resolve long lines for receipt verification at store exits.

  • After a member pays at a register or via its Scan & Go self-checkout, the new tech will capture images of carts and verify payment of the items in the cart at the exit area, without the need for a person checking.
  • Sam's Club is running pilot programs across 10 locations.

Meanwhile, Walmart announced a partnership with Microsoft, drawing on AI models from Microsoft Azure and OpenAI as well as Walmart's custom models. Go deeper.

What they're saying: "We focus on what the members are telling us and we put technology in service of that," Nicholas says.

  • "Queuing at the exit is a classic club model," Nicholas says. "But when it gets busy, those queues can get long."
  • Technology will allow its focus on the store experience for its membership, freeing associates' time so that they can deliver better service and engagement.

Zoom in: Sam's Club will balance developing its tech capabilities in-house with partnering or seeking outside expertise through acquisitions, Nicholas says.

  • Through the partnership route, Walmart is working with drone-delivery companies Wing and Zipline to deliver items to 1.8 million households in the Dallas Forth-Worth area.

The big picture: Walmart is going toe-to-toe with competitors such as Amazon, which told Axios last year it plans to leverage generative AI for search capabilities.

The bottom line: "The cheaper you can operate and the more efficiently you can operate, the cheaper you can make prices," Nicholas says.

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