Category: Amazon

09 Jan 2019
Sam's Club Now

Sam’s Club Now: A Review

sams club now signageIn response to the opening of new Amazon Go stores, Walmart and Sam’s Club are doubling down on its retail technology with an experimental store location in Dallas.  At the end of October, the retailer announced its latest venture: Sam’s Club Now. The shopping experience is similar to Amazon’s cashier-less convenience stores but with a larger focus on customer engagement. Engage3 visited the Dallas store to see what Sam’s Club Now had to offer, and we were surprised by how similar it was to the retailer’s traditional locations.

Compared to the tech-forward Amazon Go stores, Walmart seems to put the human experience first, aided by technology. According to the Sam’s Club press release, “Our associates are key to bringing this experience to life…we’ve known for a long time our associates make the difference, and that won’t change just because shopping preferences evolve.” 

This latest offering by Sam’s Club is about one-fourth the size of its traditional stores and includes electronic shelf labels. The retailer suggested the possibility of camera technology in the future as well. Purchases are done through the Sam’s Club Now app which tracks the items in a customer’s cart. Once the app is downloaded, a shopper can make grocery lists, search for items throughout the store, and use augmented reality features on certain products.

 

The Sam’s Club Now Experience

sams club parking
Sam’s Club Now Parking

On arrival, the first thing we noticed was the curbside pickup spots outside of the store. Apart from smartphone integration, it seems that Sam’s Club is focused on ease and accessibility with this experimental store. 

Once you enter with your club membership, you encounter a large charging kiosk with instructions on how to shop in the store. In order to make any purchases, you would need both a membership and a smartphone capable of downloading the app. There were no cash transactions in the store, so we had to rely on the Sam’s Club Now app. Thankfully, it was easy to set up. After opening the app and creating an account, we were ready to start shopping.

Sam's Club Kiosk
Sam’s Club Now Information and Charging Kiosk help you get started

 

From the entrance, we made our way around the store, noticing the electronic shelf labels that were set up throughout the aisles. It resembled the larger warehouse locations, but with a focus on items that could be easily picked up and scanned. However, products were still displayed and stored in the traditional Sam’s Club warehouse style. The pallets, bulk items, and stacked shelves made it clear that this was a Sam’s Club store.

 

Amazon Go Store and Sam’s Club Now Comparison

We compiled some photos of AmazonGo (left) and Sam’s Club Now (right) to give a side-by-side comparison.

 

Beyond the center store, there were separate areas for dairy, meat, and produce. These refrigerated sections featured a more limited assortment than the retailer’s larger stores, but each area had enough space to add more products down the line.

Sam's Club Departments
Center Store is separate from the refrigerated sections

For checkout, the retailer is relying on its experience with the Scan & Go app introduced two years ago. The app we downloaded allowed us to scan each item in our cart and track its total. When we were ready to check out, the transaction happened in the Sam’s Club Now app. Once it was complete, the app generated an e-receipt which we had to show upon exiting. Associates near the exit scan a QR code generated by the Now app, putting the checkout experience somewhere in the middle of the spectrum from tracking cameras to human cashiers.

 

sams club ereceipt
Showing your e-receipt on your way out
Sam's Club Now Electronic Shelf Labels
Sam’s Club Now Electronic Shelf Labels

We were thoroughly impressed by the app integration and electronic shelf labels, especially with how large the store is compared to an Amazon Go convenience store.

Amazon Go and Sam’s Club Now are operating different store sizes, but the smartphone-focused technology looks to fill the same need for shoppers. Easier navigation in stores and convenient, secure payments are featured in both. While Sam’s Club Now may be a much larger space, this experimental offering shows that retail technology is exploding in popularity. With the recent announcement of Kroger and Microsoft’s partnership, the trend towards smart shopping continues to grow.

To read our review of the Amazon 4 Star Store in Berkeley, California, click here.

 

 

27 Nov 2018
4-star

Amazon 4-Star Review

November 8, 2018 – BERKELEY, Calif.

With the launch of the latest store, Amazon now has three Amazon 4-star retail locations in the United States. The second store opened last week in Lone Tree, Colorado, surprising consumers that expected the Berkeley, California location to open first. Engage3 took a trip to the opening last week to see it in person, and here are some of our observations.

The Amazon 4-star in Berkeley opened its doors on November 5th to a short line of people, but soon the store was full of shoppers and press eager to see the products available. In the weeks leading up to the launch, I had read comments from small businesses in the area expressing their concern, but seeing it in person made it clear that the 4-star experience is not directly competing with these business owners.

Online Goes Offline

Compared to Amazon’s other retail ventures, 4-star is fairly tame; the concept of the store is to offer well-reviewed products from the online site in a brick-and-mortar location. No tracking cameras are set up and no cashier-free checkout is offered, making the store more like a traditional retailer than a cutting-edge convenience store competitor (Business Insider). We were allowed to openly browse the selection of products once inside.

What makes the store unique is how it approaches brick-and-mortar selling. Customer reviews are the basis for which items are sold in the store; if something is for sale, it means a large amount of online customers enjoyed the product. Amazon 4-star is also localized to the surrounding area, displaying a selection of products popular with Berkeley customers. These curated collections are available in the Lone Tree and Manhattan as well, and we will likely see this trend continue as more stores open.

4-star Welcome
The products in stock are all highly rated, pushing for quality over quantity.
4-star Books
Books and recommendations make up a large portion of the store, similar to Amazon Books.
4-star Trending
Items are curated for the surrounding area and based on popular orders.

Aside from the tables lined with trending purchases, the majority of items in the store were hanging on the walls with little separation. As soon as I left the table area, the number of items became overwhelming and difficult to sort through. If found myself looking at the curated collections more than anything else, and the shoppers around me were doing the same.

Compared to looking for gifts on the Amazon site, the experience of looking through seemingly endless shelves felt lacking. The categories were clearly displayed, but I had no interest of going row by row to look for something specific. A large Roomba vacuum exhibit dominated the back half of the store where the electronics were kept, and few customers were venturing into that territory. Shoppers focused on the curated tables and book displays instead. The scene reminded me of another brick-and-mortar bookseller in a condensed format.

To recreate the online shopping experience, recommended and related items appeared next to each other throughout the store. Online reviews and short descriptions accompanied many of the store’s products, but these when afterthoughts when compared to the Amazon Prime integration.

Gifts and Presence

While I went through the store, I noticed that many products have two price points: one for Prime members and one for non-members. The e-ink displays clearly tell a shopper the online rating for the product and how much they are saving with their membership. Every item had an Electronic Shelf Label that the employees could change when necessary.

The labels caught my attention, because they displays the online rating and number of reviews. Amazon was meticulous on this point, making sure every single item in the store had a dynamic label.

Many shoppers and news outlets are comparing the 4-star experience to existing “everything under one roof” retailers. The store has even been called a Millennial Brookstone (Forbes). However, what sets Amazon apart from these retailers is a focus on membership and community interaction.

The Berkeley location seemed more welcoming than Amazon’s other physical stores, especially compared to Amazon Go. Most of the customers in the store were curious families and couples, and it is refreshing to see the online retailer focus on more than their usual tech-savvy demographic.

Overall, the Amazon 4-star favors a traditional layout over revolutionary tech. It shares a target demographic with the retailer’s convenience stores, but offers a more reserved shopping experience. Even though the store was overwhelming at times, it felt warmer and more human than any of Amazon’s previous brick-and-mortar attempts. With its wide product selection, I can see holiday shoppers close to these stores turning to 4-star for their gift-giving.

15 May 2018
COO

Engage3 COO Edris Bemanian Talks Pricing Strategy, Pressures, and the Market

Last month, Robert Schaulis of Andnowuknow interviewed Engage3 COO Edris Bemanian on his observations of pricing pressures from the likes of Amazon and Lidl. “The biggest trend is that pricing and assortments are becoming more dynamic and localized,” Edris says.  He notes that e-commerce is now becoming a fundamental part of retailers’ strategies versus just a “me too” approach. Read the full article in Andnowuknow.com.

18 Feb 2017
walmart to go

Shopping Revolutions: The Future of Grocery Stores

Drive Through Supermarkets? A Revolution in Grocery Retail

Traditional grocery stores are phasing out and rapidly losing appeal to the 21st century shopper. With millennials at the height of their rule and a growing shift towards online and instant shopping, the existence of the list-making and cart-pushing shopper is moving towards extinction.

According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the greatest change in U.S. food shopping behavior is the extent to which food shoppers now rely on non-supermarkets as a source of grocery supplies. Long gone are the days when you opened your fridge, made a shopping list of necessary items and spent the morning cruising through the aisles of the closest and most cost-effective grocery store.

The changing mindset of the average consumer who demands an easier, faster and more convenient shopping experience has forced several industries to adapt. Conventional supermarkets are not as appealing in a world with a diverse amount of shopping options, and major retailers are actually starting to feel the pressure to adapt and meet a new set of needs.

From smaller store formats to online shopping, big grocers are wiping the beads of sweat off their foreheads and largely divorcing the “traditional” store formats.

Here are the top 3 ways large-scale grocers are innovating to win back their customers:

1. Convenient Store Formats

Large grocers have been creating smaller, easily-navigable versions of their mother stores with the format of a typical convenience store. Connected to gas stations, the idea is to create a quick and easy shopping experience for consumers who are bound to stop for a bite to eat as they wait for their tanks to fill up.

This past month, Walmart has been a huge player in the game and unveiled their newest convenient store, a “C-Store,” in Rogers, Arkansas. The 25,000 square foot building offers a hot food bar with quick to-go meals such as paninis, nachos, hot dogs and sausages. The new store offers a similar format to that of a classic 7-11 with coolers of beers, sodas and other beverages as well as aisles stocked with grocery staples: milk, eggs, frozen meals and pizza. Walmart has experimented with this type of store in the past in Crowley, Texas and other regions in Arkansas.

Kroger, one of the world’s largest grocery retailers, also opened up their version of a C-Store in College Station, Texas last year. Their take on the smaller store format features 16 gasoline pumps, convenient merchandise and a barrage of coffee and fountain beverages. If the goal is to make act of grocery shopping convenient at a variety of locations, then these grocers are hitting the target. Filling up gas will now become part of the same errand as grocery shopping.

2. “Grocerants”

Most grocery stores like Safeway, Whole Foods and Raley’s design their deli and hot meals sections to be an easy, sit-down spot for hungry customers to munch on a quick meal. There’s never been anything particularly attractive about the food options in these delis, so grocery stores have decided to switch their focus and hone in with full force on revamping and glamorizing these in-store eateries.

Meet the newest revolution in dining experiences: the grocerant. It’s a hopeful attempt at creating a hybrid between grocery shopping and fine dining by picking high-end restaurants or restaurants with name recognition and incorporating them into the store layout.

The supermarket chain Hy-Vee has a Market Grille Restaurant in over 20 of their stores. A Whole Foods in New York City has a Yuji Ramen inside their store. A Gateway Market in Iowa even has a beer program, where consumers can fill up pints from the in-store bar and shop with a beer in hand.

If the idea is to attract customers back into stores by offering them tasty, well-known dining options, the food has to be tempting enough to get them to sit down to a meal. Grocers figure that customers are probably more inclined to use the time before enjoying their meal or after the calorie boost to shop for products.

Grocers will be able to yield a better experience for the shopper if the shopper can save on time and money and consolidate their day’s errands, like eating, into a one-stop shopping excursion.

3. Online Services

Technological innovations have been one of the most dynamic tools for shopping evolutions. Making a shopping list? There’s an app for that. Comparing prices between similar items? There’s an app for that. Need groceries delivered? There’s even an app for that.

Over the last few years, grocers like Safeway, Raley’s, Costco and Wholefoods have begun utilizing online shopping platforms and delivery systems with the aid of tools such as Instacart or Google Express. These kinds of services completely remove the need for consumers to set foot in a grocery store.

Amazon is the Stephen Curry of grocery innovators, as Amazon has made huge strides in emerging into the grocery retail market with Amazon Grocery, Amazon Pantry and their newest technological revolution, Amazon Go.

Amazon Go is Amazon’s first physical grocery store and has the format of a traditional store but promises the convenience of online shopping. They reel in customers with the tag, “No lines, no checkout- just grab and go!” Customers walk in, scan their phones over a sensor that detects their account within the Amazon app, grab whichever food items they want off the shelves and simply walk out of the store when they’re finished. Amazon’s “Just Walk Out Technology” uses sensor fusion and computer vision to identify the item that was put in the physical cart and adds it to the virtual cart on the app. The Amazon account is later charged and sent a receipt.

The first store opened up in downtown Seattle, and Amazon is eager to announce additional locations for their new stores in the next few months.

Grocers have had to become more creative, strategic and innovative in the way they market to consumers and grow relationships. With ideas such as grocerants and Amazon Go already taking off in earnest, there’s no predicting the upcoming innovations and evolutions grocery retailers will be fighting to bring to the table.

Photo Courtesy: CSNews