And I don’t mean the Rest & Relaxation you may be thinking of. I mean Robots & Retail. A new phenomenon that’s entering our world and it’s fascinating. If you missed our Digital Diary post on Walmart’s robot announcement, you can find that here.
Huge corporations are following Walmart’s footsteps with this new age concept. Take Amazon Go for example, who created a checkout-free grocery store. Even Domino’s has created a self-driving robot for pizza deliveries.
“If [robots] succeed, these new technologies could add further uncertainty to the retail work force, which is already in flux because of the growth of online shopping.” Nick Wingfield
Many retail stores outside of the U.S. are jumping on board with this idea. Should we expect to see more of this here in North America? Let’s take a look at a few companies using bots in their every day routine.
A China-based start-up that created a chain of 100+ cashier-less stores. You start by scanning a code onto your phone and once inside the store, scan the items you want to buy, pay through your phone and leave as the store’s exit doors unlock themselves.
The U.K. based grocery store has Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) robots that scan inventory throughout the store in just one hour versus the seven hours it would take for one store employee to do this task. Tesco has found less error in this way of scanning inventory.
One of the largest internet companies in China has opened 35+ automated stores. They merge together online ordering with automatic checkout. Customers actually use facial recognition to pay, while bags of groceries ordered online appear overhead on a conveyor belt headed to the loading dock for delivery.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
I’m not quite sure how I feel about these robots yet, and I’m not sure anyone does at this stage. There are, of course, many advantages to having these little circular beetles (or human shaped bots) roaming around retail stores. Use of space, for one, is definitely on the pro side of the list. Additionally, accurate and correct stocking, early correction of errors to minimize costs, real-time tracking of product movement, speed of scanning…I can go on and on.
“The new generation of robotics, automation tools and technologies have the capabilities to support zero-defect logistic processes to achieve new highs in productivity.” Tamros Mondal
But let’s move to the con side of the list. Thinking in a broader sense, these bots come with a cost. Purchase, installation and upkeep are prices that companies will need to consider. Privacy is also something that may not work so well with these machines. There’s an increased risk of a data breach.
“Enhanced automation is not without risk and businesses that utilize smart-devices and computer controlled equipment to manage or perform the bulk of their operations and workflow can often become an inviting target.” Rick DelGado
Companies will need to make digital security a top priority if they decide to make this shift. Employees are going to face insecurity and hesitancy towards this new way of working. This is going to be an enormous, significant change that is going to take employees/employers time to adjust.
I think we all need a little R&R before we can accept R&R.
C-Level experts from across North America’s retail industry are coming together in Dallas next August at the Digital Retail Transformation Assembly to anticipate the highly complex digital retail environment that will develop over the next few years.
Through a cutting-edge program designed by the industry, for the industry, we will provide a fresh and up-to-date insight to help move your organization to the next level of digital leadership. A series of executive education roundtables, keynote presentations, collaborative think tanks, educational workshops, and networking sessions will offer industry-specific topics and trends to ensure your company sustains its competitive advantage.