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Retail Robots: 4 Ways they are revolutionizing in-store shopping Striking the perfect balance between intelligence powered robots and human store associates are what retailers should look to achieve

By Aditya Kathotia

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With technology skyrocketing at the rate of knots and consumers across various industry verticals getting more tech-savvy, one can't help but imagine what the world of tomorrow beholds. Enhancing the in-store experience of customers is where all offline retailers are laying emphasis on as they look to stand their ground against their online counterparts. The love for automation for brands and consumers alike know no bounds. Customer convenience is more than just a buzzword as all retail endeavours today are directed at achieving the same.

In-store robots: The Next Gen Retail

Robots are not something that is entirely new to the retail sphere. However, it's about now that they are gaining full traction. The best part is that it's not one of those needlessly expensive technologies the purpose of which is to merely woo customers inside the store. Sure it elevates the in-store experience of customers to another level, but it also allows retailers to save cost and enhance the accuracy of day-to-day operations. Generally, when we talk about robots in retail, we think about how it helps optimize business processes by improving the overall distribution productivity. But today, the use cases of robots are not just restricted to distribution warehouses.

Robots today find a place inside the retail store and they sure have a massive role to play. Let's see how.

1. Enabling a Glitch-free Price Tag on Shelves

With customer experience being at the epicentre of all retail, the last thing that retailers want is their customers to feel frustrated or discontent while shopping; and it often so happens in stores that customers add items to their shopping cart based on the price tags that they find displayed at the shelves, only to find out that the price displayed was incorrect. It's but natural to feel perturbed about the whole situation. Retail robots can eliminate such scenarios by ensuring that the prices displayed at the shelves are accurate. Robots use cameras to identify any existent glitch on the shelf labels and immediately alert the human authority to rectify the errors.

2. Introducing the New-age Salesman

With more and more people becoming tech-savvy every day, the whole idea of an automated in-store retail experience does appear rosy; even if it is at the expense of real-life human interactions. Robots today are instilled with well-fed intelligence that helps them easily comprehend human interactions. People can just type out on the interactive screen or verbally tell robots (if the robots are voice technology enabled) the products they are interested in. The robots will then in a rather human-like fashion get to the job of fetching your items of choice, and also communicate other recommended items based on what is already there in the cart. Such is the kind of potential that lies in robots today. Although robots have not reached the level where they can completely replace humans yet, who knows what the near future has in store?

3. Allowing Ease of Navigation Access In-store

Most consumers today are time-crunched, probably the biggest reason why they resort to online shopping. However, retailers should not think that customers who end up walking into the store have a lot of time to spare. Instead, they should aim at making every minute of their presence count. Now there are a lot of things that can put the customers off, despite all your fancy efforts. One of the most common things is customers getting disappointed and walking out of the store in frustration of not knowing where to find their items. In-store robots can surely eliminate this by guiding customers to the correct aisle. All customers need to do is convey the items they want to purchase by voice or through an interactive screen. This saves a lot of time for the customers and also enhances their overall in-store experience. A happy customer is bound to come back to the store again. Robots certainly know how to make them happy.

4. Re-filling Stock Levels Just in Time

How many times has it happened that customers have walked out of stores thinking that the products they were looking for were not available? The reason is simple. They couldn't find or see them when they looked around for them. In context to the point, that time is at a premium for most of these customers, it has to be understood that not many will stick around to double-check the item-availability with the floor executives. Therefore, it becomes doubly important for retailers to ensure that their stock levels are updated periodically to eliminate this misconception. Modern-day robots have the capability to do just that. Sometimes during high demand seasons like Christmas, stock on the shelves can start running out faster than expected. Robots can track the running out of items and alert the store personnel to replenish the empty shelves well in advance. Today, inventory management is something that robots can take care of even inside the store.

So are Humans Required? The Inside Story

Well, the answer to that is yes and no. Let's deal with the eyes first. Truth is, no matter how advanced technologies get, there is no replacing humans in retail when it comes to emotional touch. Any decent salesman will tell you that it's easier to convince customers when spoken to in an impersonal and friendly way. Human beings best understand what the customer is thinking about or probably wants to be based on their body language and facial expressions. One can argue that robots can be instilled with Facial recognition technology to better attend to these customers. But, accuracy is one thing that might be a struggling point, given the fact that the technology is still at a nascent stage. Besides, customers generally love the company of store associates assisting them inside the store. There is nothing more convincing than face to face, and personalized customer service.

Now coming to the 'no' part, retailers can do without human beings present in stores carrying out mundane duties that have nothing to do with direct customer service. For instance, robots can totally replace humans when it comes to tracking inventory on the shelves and ensuring if the shelves are displaying prices accurately. The whole point of keeping human store-associates is for them to be at the customers' beck and call. Robots can consistently carry out these mundane tasks on a day-to-day basis, which allows retailers to ask their human force to concentrate completely on customer service.

Amidst this digital revolution where technologies like the ARs, VRs, and AIs are making all the right noises, retailers should not forget the critical role that humans play as well. Ideally, striking the perfect balance between intelligence powered robots and human store associates are what retailers should look to achieve. This will ensure that customers get a little bit of everything – from old school word of mouth salesmanship to the new age walking tall robots imitating the intelligence and capabilities of a human altogether. Technology has no bounds and no one knows if in the years to come robotic intelligence will be good enough to replace humans completely. But for the time being, a blend of both appears to be the trend. In any case, in-store robots definitely signify the new age retail.

Aditya Kathotia

Founder, DigitalPolo.com

Aditya is the founder and CEO of DigitalPolo.com, a unique branding + design company that provides unlimited design work for a small fixed monthly fee to businesses and marketers throughout the world.


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