Robotics in the Retail Industry: When Changes Are Inevitable
Innovations are continually chasing the retail industry. Artificial intelligence, automation, machine learning and analytics can do unbelievable things when combined. Retail robots are quickly becoming the first customer touch point. They can easily make them feel happier and more engaged. Plus, robotics can promise significant growth by being introduced to every stage of the retail value chain. However, we should also be ready to face some challenges if we want to switch to the fully robotic retail industry.
In 2019, robotics isn’t a new phenomenon anymore. Some of us have already encountered a robot in one of our favorite retail stores at least ones. However, there’re still a lot of people who don’t have the slightest idea about how those robots look like and what value they have for us.
So, before we start telling you about all the good robots are bringing to the retail industry, let’s make sure you know what kind of retail robots you can meet in reality and not your imagination.
- In-store service robots
They can guide you to the right aisle or shelf, tell you more information about products and help you choose the best one. Walmart’s shelf-scanning robot and Lowe’s LoweBot are great examples.
- Inventory robots
These are the robots that ensure everything is on its place, and the shelves are stocked. What’s more, they can even grab something for you and bring it, like Best Buy’s Chloe robot, for example.
- Delivery robots
These robots deliver the goodies you ordered to your door. Simple as that. For instance, drones count as such too. However, the most prominent one is Domino’s Robotic Unit (DRU) Delivery Robot.
Now, let’s take a look at what benefits robots have for the retail industry.
To Err Is Human, But Not Robotic
Have you ever come to the cash register to pay for the product and noticed that its price differs a lot from what you saw on the tag? Even imagining that situation makes most people feel annoyed.
Here’s when robots come in very helpful. They scan the aisles, capture the problems and then notify humans who’d fix them. Unlike human beings, robots wouldn’t miss a thing. As a result, the sales team wouldn’t need to worry about identifying issues.
The More the Sales Personnel, the Better
Nowadays, people buy a lot of stuff, whether they need it or not. Thus, together with humans, retail robots can help endless amounts of customers hunt for the next purchase.
Also, unlike us, robots never get tired; they don’t need to take a break. This way, store owners can be sure that their customers won’t be left without advice. Plus, people tend to like interacting with robots, even more than with human beings. For example, the humanoid robot Pepper is a great success. It understands 80% of conversations and can help customers choose the right product.
Efficiency is Key
Retail robots can monitor stock levels to ensure that shelves are always full. Once they see that some products are running low, they can notify the inventory team members to take care of them. For example, Target uses a robot called Tally to do the stock checks. Also, Tally’s scanner allows the staff to see whether there are any mistakes with the labels and whether the product is on the exact place it should be.
What most people do when they’re lost and cannot find what they’re looking for in the store? Unless they run into a consultant, they’re more likely to leave the shop upset and unsatisfied. In such cases, the earlier mentioned LoweBot is a perfect solution. This robot can help customers locate items and reduce the chance of them leaving the store without buying anything. Overall, such in-store robots would only add to pleasant customer experience. Just say out loud what you want to buy and follow the robot. It’s easy and convenient.
Robots Never Sleep
As much as we’d want all the stores to work round the clock, it’s not always possible. At least not until we get used to relying on robots to help us out with that issue.
However, in case you decide you need to visit one of Manhattan’s Best Buy stores in the middle of the night to buy that coffee maker you’ve dreamed about for so long, be ready to meet Chloe. Chloe is a giant robohand that gets the product you need from a vending machine and passes it to you.
So, while the human staff is sleeping, robots are taking care of customers who enjoy night shopping.
Robotics in the retail industry is a dream come true. It can save labor costs, enhance customer experience and improve productivity. Nevertheless, there are still some problems that retail robots might seem to create.
Are Robots Stealing Jobs from Humans?
While retailers are saving labor cost, they might also realize they don’t really need half of their employees. It can be much more profitable for them to invest in a sophisticated robot who never gets tired instead of paying a regular wage to human employees.
Retailers will eventually have to understand that automation should eliminate tasks, not employes. As they say, work smarter, not harder.
How Much is Too Much?
Imagine all stores going robotic. Will there be a need to go there at all? You might as well order stuff online without leaving your comfort zone. The thing is, a lot of people go to the physical store because they want to talk to human sales representatives, hear suggestions and so on. Will they trust a robot as much as they can trust a person? Who knows.
Can Robotics Backfire?
Automation and AI can bring the retail industry to the next level, and that’s a fact. Also, robots can make people happier. However, retailers should still fully disclose to their customers what kind of automation they use and how.
Robots can be moving around scanning aisles and you at the same time. They can take pictures of what you’re buying, track how much time you spend at the store and how frequently you visit it. Of course, they’d be using it to provide you with better service later on. The question is whether you’d want to be aware of that or not. That’s what retailers should take into consideration. They need to make sure automation won’t scare off all their customers.
While robotic technology in the retail industry is still a novelty, it has great potential to change the face of retail completely. For retailers, it can help cut costs, automate a lot of processes, enhance customer service and, of course, bring more profit. For customers, retail robots can introduce a hassle-free shopping experience. However, retail robotics might also make human jobs disappear and reduce the need to visit stores at all. So, you have to consider all the possible outcomes carefully before fully infusing robots into the retail industry.