29 September 2016
Written by Rowin Meijerink
Technology is able to cater to ever increasing customer expectations. Using the most recent developments, retailers adopt a myriad of features to live up to consumers’ wishes. For example, PLUS supermarket in The Netherlands offers increasingly faster services by launching a same day delivery solution under the brand PLUS Express. Walgreens has also stepped on the bandwagon of 24/7 access and connectivity, by offering live, online chat with pharmacy staff. Another up-and-coming feature is personalized experience through artificial intelligence. Macy’s is running a pilot in this field in collaboration with IBM, introducing an intelligent engagement platform that will enhance the customer in-store shopping experience.
On the other hand, technology is also used to replace workers. This has already been common practice in factories, for example in China, where assembly lines are using robots instead of manpower to reduce costs and increase productivity. Also in India major textile player Raymond is planning to cut 10,000 jobs in its manufacturing centres in the next three years, replacing workers with robots and technology.
This trend is not only occurring in factories, but is also taking shape in retail. This week Walmart patented a new system that allows shopping carts to drive themselves, untouched by customers and employees. These carts have the potential to scan, retrieve, and deliver products, to check inventory and more. Knightscope also demonstrated robots that could be used for inventory control and other safety purposes. At TechCrunch Disrupt 2016, Croissant showed the concept of PepperPay, a robot that allows you to quickly purchase your products by just showing it your items, and offers you to check out your products using PayPal. Although the former developments are still a distant dream, others are not. Lowe’s will be introducing the LoweBot in their home improvement stores this fall. Although at first sight it may merely seem to be a gadget to attract customers to their stores, it is able to do much more. This autonomous robot greets customers, scans and audits store inventory on the floor, uses voice recognition to identify products and leads customers to the right shelf.
Although the adoption of robotics in retail is still in its infancy, it will eventually become a realistic replacement of employees. It will be interesting to see whether these features will in fact boost customer experience, also when the first excitement has faded away.
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