Retail Robots: How Robots Usher in a New Era for the Retail Industry
Sun, April 18, 2021

Retail Robots: How Robots Usher in a New Era for the Retail Industry

Many industries, especially those that perform life-threatening tasks, are reaping the benefits of robotics, wrote Naveen Joshi of business news Forbes / Photo by: Willyam Bradberry via Shutterstock

 

Many industries, especially those that perform life-threatening tasks, are reaping the benefits of robotics, wrote Naveen Joshi of business news Forbes. Robotics has grown from being controlled by a human to being fully autonomous. Equipped with advanced technologies, robots are designed to emulate human intelligence in one form or another. Hence, we tend to see the use cases of robots in areas that require human intelligence and decision-making capabilities. 

Since robots leverage cameras and machine learning algorithms, robots are now capable of capturing images and videos, analyzing them, and responding accordingly. The potential of robots responding the same way as humans do has ushered in new opportunities in various industries, even in retail. Retail robots shouldn’t surprise us. In fact, Amazon and Walmart have already used robots in their warehouses for streamlining and optimizing inventory-related processes. 

A Fresh Take On Retail 

The best part of retail robots is that they are not in stores to charm customers, said Aditya Kathoia of Entrepreneur, an entrepreneurship news platform. Robots can enhance the customer experience by a notch, but they can help stores save costs and improve the accuracy of day-to-day operations. Customer experience is the epicenter of the retail industry. No retail store would want its customers to feel disappointed while shopping. 

Customers place items in their shopping cart based on the price tags they see on the shelves, and sometimes they find out that the price was incorrect. Robots can eliminate this problem by ensuring that all prices displayed on the shelves are accurate. They can use cameras to identify any glitches on the shelf labels, alerting a human authority to address the errors. 

As people become more tech-savvy, the idea of an automated in-store retail experience appears rosy, even if it compromises human interaction. Robots are fed and trained with data that enables them to comprehend human interactions. Customers can type out on the interactive screen or verbally tell the robots— if they are voice technology-enabled— the products they want to purchase. In a human-like fashion, the robot will fetch your items and recommend items that are based on the products you chose.

Robots can enhance the customer experience by a notch, but they can help stores save costs and improve the accuracy of day-to-day operations / Photo by: Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock

 

Customers Don’t Have Enough Time

Many customers are strapped for time, and it’s probably why they opt to shop online rather in brick-and-mortar stores. However, retailers should not mistake customers who come to the shop as having a lot of time on their hands. Rather, retailers should try to make every minute of their presence count. There are factors that put off customers. 

One of which is when they don’t know where to find certain items. Retail robots can address this problem by guiding customers to the correct aisle, thereby enhancing their in-store customer experience. Another problem that may arise is when customers think the item they are looking for is unavailable. Not everyone will double-check a product’s availability with the store executives. To address this issue, robots can check if a product is about to run out, notifying the store personnel to replenish stocks ahead of time. What if it’s time for customers to pay for their items? No customer would want to queue for hours on end. 

Robots can make this process more convenient for shoppers by incorporating machine-vision algorithms. Once customers are done shopping, they could approach the robots instead of cashiers. The robots will take photos of the items and process them. The robots will then generate a bill, enabling shoppers to pay on the spot. 

Many customers are strapped for time, and it’s probably why they opt to shop online rather in brick-and-mortar stores. However, retailers should not mistake customers who come to the shop as having a lot of time on their hands / Photo by: bbernard via Shutterstock

 

Questions That Need to be Answered

Georges Mirza of robotics and AI news source Robotics Business Review outlined a question to retailers who want to deploy robots in their stores: Can a solution accurately, consistently, autonomously operate in retail stores by aggregating data and addressing real business problems? Robotics companies can answer this question "with different degrees of success and reliability."  They should demonstrate their capabilities “quickly to show the level of maturity of their solution.” 

In Progressive Grocer, a grocery and supermarket industry news platform, Mirza wrote that more and more advancements in automation will arrive. Therefore, retailers should stay engaged and collaborate with robot companies to help streamline operations to meet the needs of their shoppers. 

Embracing Technological Innovations

The retail industry is slow when adopting new technologies. Even so, we will get to see much more rapid advances in technology than in the past. This will only occur when robots start to scale, which will be a wakeup call to the retail industry. The guiding principle for any solution is how well it consistently bolsters a shopper’s experience, brings value to the retailer, and shows a real return on investment. 

Even if robots take over stores, retailers should not forget to strike a balance between humans and robots. This way, customers can get a little bit of “old school word of mouth salesmanship” or they can immerse themselves in a futuristic retail store where robots mimic the intelligence and capabilities of human beings. 

Overall, robots in retail stores prove that innovations in technology and robotics can help streamline operations and enhance the customer experience. For now, robots and humans will continue to work together to usher in a new era for the retail industry.