The Role of Robots in the Retail Industry Today

The 4th Industrial Revolution

Robots are a part of the 4th industrial revolution that aims to blur the boundaries between our physical, digital and biological worlds. The advanced technologies that has been brought by this revolution are genetic engineering, 3d prints, artificial intelligence which is better known as AI, IoT internet of things and robotics.

Robots have been designed to be a part of the human race and proves to be a remarkable movement in our world.
The Role of Robots in the Retail Industry Today

Retail marketing today, is far different from what it used to be. In its earlier years, retail marketing was all about manual labor in warehouses to first hand sales, humans would see through shelves and locate items, logistics being done by hand to picking on safety measures, all of it were done by humans. That, has changed a lot today; with the emergence of 4th industrial revolution, the layout and the storyline of retail markets have transformed exceptionally.

The Versatile Employment of Robots

Robots have been created with the fusion of two digital elements- cloud and analytics. They have been created with the objective to perform human tasks better and make it more productive. Today, they are highly proficient to carry out multi task with equal weightage to all. From, shopping outlets to warehouses, they have been designed to make the whole experience of retail marketing very convenient. 

And, not just for customers but for the workers in-house as well. They are well equipped to be very helpful for store associates, back-office activities, warehouses packaging, and shelf shifting to stores managing both offline and online orders.

The worldwide market of Robots is estimated to mark at USD 87billion, by the end of year 2025 (source: BCG, Boston Consulting Group).

Alphabot is a system that has been designed to make robots capable on pick-up and pack online orders at high speeds. One of the very first company to have implemented this is Walmart, by employing robots, in their online grocery shopping that can work ten times faster than a human. Robot application is being done at an increasing rate in worldwide stores.

What is the Revolution about?

Every business has two aspects where their survival depends- the customers and their friendly competitors. Especially in retail shopping, with new businesses coming in, from local stores to big companies, the competition race has become very fast paced.

Online stores have changed the market scenario as about every kind of purchase can be done from the comforts of our house. Even then, retail marketing in physical stores can never get too old to earn a solid place for itself. Just in 2019 alone, 90% of retail sales took place through physical retail marketing (source: review 42). Therefore, one cannot visibly undermine the whole importance of retail shopping outlets. Especially, in US alone, the retail market is the largest private-sector employer (source: review 42).

Having said that, it has become undeniably true that our brick-and-mortar stores will not get outdated in the near future and with the introduction of robots, the entire sales definition has changed.

The competitive pull has really heightened the work pressure in retail stores. Employers are paying extra attention towards quantity and quality because the market is growing and the ones who can build inventive and innovative approach to their sales output, is here to stay. That is why more and more businesses are investing in robotics. The retail robotic market has been estimated to grow at the CAGR of 21.8% by 2026 (source: GlobeNewswire).

Roles Performed by Robots in Retail Stores Today

  • A Humanized Interaction

As stores are getting more robot revolutionized, customers are increasingly looking forward for a fun filled interactive space. That task is efficiently performed by AI activated interactive screens and voice-enabled robots. They serve the customers by letting them use these screens, to scroll for shop items and add them to their carts.

More so, these intelligent robots are also enabled to fetch lists of related items and make recommendation, according to the wish list added in customer’s cart. This particular role is functioned by the AL-Led Robot. These are not just machines doing what you’re asking them to do but are also suggesting you a list of similar items to consider on, just like a human store associate would do!

Often what happens, is due to simple unwillingness or to save time on a busy day, customers refrain from walking behind shop assistants, who want them to look at various other similar products. Robots here can help them to make the process easy and time efficient as AL-Led robots are equipped to simply display in-store products on the robot’s screen, then and there.

  • Inventory Logistics Done Right

According to the data compiled by a company in Pennsylvania, almost 90% retail store marketer’s claim to the fact that incorrect analytics of their inventory results in more losses than a theft does. Among them 75% have stated that inaccurate inventory logistics has always been a problem faced by them.

Herein, the application of robots can make the store’s productivity high and result in “0” defect logistics. They can function in a more skillful manner by analyzing the sale’s stock ratio and provide the human assistants with an exact compilation of the arithmetic. They can easily help store managers calculate the number of items running out-of-stock to those which have run out. Hence, being effective in estimation of items running out of sales and searching the inventory to help locate the right items to be brought in store racks.

For example, Walmart has introduced robots that help them in out-of-stock monitoring and inventory tracking. These are especially helpful in days when the sales are in peak and operations have to be carried out quickly with high precision.

  • Safeguarding In-store Customers, Store Associates and Inventory Workers

Robots are quick, agile and tirelessly active; therefore, they can prove to be useful when it comes to attending immediate medical aids and unfortunate store accidents.

Robot drones have been built to carry emergency medical kits quite swiftly. They are quicker than humans can be and have proven to aid in-prompt services whenever required. As a store owner, you wouldn’t want to wait out your customers during immediate medical assistance, therefore, the role of robots would largely make the work of its human colleagues easier.

Safeguarding store associates by replacing them in their tiring hours and still be able to make store operations quite effective. That way they will be able to support their store managers and enrich their work rates. Additionally, it will not hamper store’s functioning while allowing store associates enough rest periods and bring in overall fruitfulness for the store.

Robots are machines equipped well with power and strength, therefore, can help the inventory store workers by lifting heavy loads, thereby reducing the risk of any injuries. Additionally, robots can adjust in tight spaces and to poor lighting, as a result they can literally work with the same efficiency, anywhere.

Hence, they are helpful enough to maintain workers safety and attend quick service needs whenever, wherever needed.

  • Mobility That Counts Productivity

A classic example to substantiate this point, would be that of UK’s biggest online supermarket store, Ocado that has employed robots for packing, shipping and restocking and has made the store’s functioning very time-saving. These machines can compile about 50-60 grocery online orders in the right baskets, in less than 6 minutes.

Also, Walmart is not far behind and has installed mobile drones for an easy shopping experience. What it does is, every customer is given a phone when they enter the shop where the customer has to list out their choices and the drones interact with the phone and flies to the right places to give what the customers need. They are built intelligently to make best use of your customer’s time.

Now, robots will not just be an interactive screen space or move around for orders, they can fly around and their mobility, therefore, speaks productivity.

The best example would be introduction of Kiva system by amazon in their warehouses. They have created a new category, as such, called the warehouse robot category that has multi-level use; starting from carrying payloads as heavy as 750lb to easy store navigation, managing shelf activities to delivering packages from one end to the other. They assist the store labors to perform the tasks very timely at a fast speed.

Through the introduction of Kiva system, robots can now perform with higher mobility and be productive in their use from warehouses to curbside pickups.

  • From Price Tags to Spills and Leaks

With a huge number of customers coming in stores every day, floor managers cannot be equally attentive at every corner. During high peak seasons, one would easily see floor executives struggling between the beck-and-call of every customer. They work tirelessly and being sufficiently attentive to each and every one is not easy.

Especially during these situations, it is impediment for stores personnel to be aware of the updated price tags on store’s items and be careful with spills and leakages. Let me give you a personal example, on the homecoming of Durga puja festival, the stores are exceptionally packed with large number of people. 

The discounts and offers on products are changed now and then to attract more and more customers. As a result, it so happened one day, while shopping in a multi-story outlet, the price tag on one item was that of the day before and somehow, they forgot to change and update it. When I asked, the floor helper said that due to a huge number of people coming in every day and with the daily load on updates on different discounts, they somehow have forgotten to check it and update it. What he did next was correct the price with a marker and apologized.

I came to realize that, as it is the number of manual labor is quite less in any store and for them, it becomes especially difficult during holiday weeks. Herein, is where robots have proved to be extremely useful! They can scan through racks and shelves in seconds and identify any mistake on price tags and then inform its human colleagues instantly. The necessary action, therefore, can be taken on-the-spot and the whole process becomes easily streamlined.

Just as Target stores are using Tally, a robot to monitor pricing of its store products daily.
Along that line, another nuisance that gets created in stores, are spills and leaks. Robots have been developed to monitor store aisles for any such mishap. They navigate around the aisles and check for any spills or leaks in shelves, through the use of image-capture technology. That information is then passed on to the store managers and the necessary action is speeded-up.

For example, a US based store, Stop and Shop uses the robot named Marty to do that and stated that the robot helps them discover about 35-40 spills in every outlet of theirs, each day (source: robotics business review).

  • Swift Emergency Services

Robots have, truly, revolutionized the core of in-store shopping experience. It has worked through numerous notable ways to change the overall experience of retail stores. It has proved itself to be ultimate useful in enhancing customer experience and store management. The definition of warehouses has literally changed through robots use, in so many different ways.

And who knew robots could prove itself to be at par excellence as it came to mitigating COVID-19 risk issues, in stores and warehouses. They have triumphantly re-defined the customer experience already but the role played by them during the pandemic has become significantly prominent.

Against the Pandemic, one of the foremost requirement today, is to maintain social distance, 6 feet apart from one another and yet carry out daily activities in an enjoyable way. Robots, in the café of a place named Danjeon, South Korea, have been brought into play as they can easily sense the most cleared aisles in the café shop and travel through accordingly. They use Robot Barista as waiters to serve customers and thus making it easier on the customer’s part to follow through the 6-feet social distance policy.

During the pandemic, the use of robots in cleaning harmful spills and helping its human counterparts to be safe thereby, ensuring their safety, is largely being felt.

How Does the Way Ahead Appear? - A Broader Outlook

One cannot deny that robots have changed the language of retail shopping. It has made successful attempts to ease in-store and warehouse operations and processes involved in retail marketing. While it has made the whole retail shopping process swifter, qualitative and has held a friendship with its human store associates; on the other hand, it cannot be denied, that somewhere in that story, there is skepticism regarding manual labor employment.

Whether robots can fully replace humans or not, whether humans at all will be needed and how will their friendship come about in the future?

Many argue in favor of the issue, that personalized communication, which adds the aesthetics of endearment cannot possibly be done with equal capability by robots. Situations like, issues and complaints raised by customers in stores, introduction of new products with an effort to boost sales, cannot be done with the efficacy of a human.

As for others against that would advocate the use of Facial recognition technology in robots that would enable robots to do the same and then, there are ample other examples, like that of the Niska ice-cream store in Australia. The three robots employed there, Tony, Eka and Pepper, launched in 2015 by technology developer ABB. In addition to serving customers, they also engage in conversations between themselves from the point a customer enters their store space!

There are debates ongoing a lot about making distinctions between robots that will only perform mundane retail store work to humans doing the high-end and high value customer service chores. But then again, there are robots like Pepper and Marty that have humanized the whole meaning around robots.

Also read: Google Duo For PC Free Installation

So, one cannot sit here, at this point and clearly make future predictions. Our world has become a global village with high technical know-how and there are still ongoing scientific inventions and discoveries globally, therefore, it is only on time to show the meaning of all these debates and questions. 

But one thing seems to be certain, at least up till now; retail shopping calls for, both humans and robots, for now we cannot do away with one and say that the other one is all we will ever need. Rest, is on time to portray us, how the way ahead looks like.

Iklan Atas Artikel

Iklan Tengah Artikel 1

Iklan Tengah Artikel 2

Iklan Bawah Artikel