Collaborative robots have been in the retail industry for a while now. The use is not as widespread, and cobots are yet to make a substantial visible impact, but industry leaders believe it is only a matter of time.
Such optimism is driven by the fact that big chains are already at the forefront testing the use of collaborative robots in their stores. Walmart, BevMo, and Schnuck are big brands that have taken the all-important step of testing cobots in their various stores.
Walmart, in particular, has robots roaming their aisles in 50 stores across the United States. The robots perform three essential functions.
- Scanning and determining items that are out of stock.
- Finding mislabeled items and labeling them.
- Determining if the listed price for each item is correct.
The collaborative robots have had such a positive impact in the fifty stores where Walmart has deployed them that John Crecelius—the vice president of innovation—says the company is extremely motivated and excited for the future.
With such exciting advances, is it any wonder that the claim that cobots could soon be in a retail store near you seem not so far-fetched anymore?
For that to happen, however, small retail brands, as well as big retail brands, must of necessity embrace cobots and realize the benefits they bring to a retail business. Collaborative robots add value to your retail enterprise or business in three fundamental ways.
1. Give Your Customers a Great Shopping Experience Through Various Customer Service Applications
By now you probably know of the bots powered by AI that are used in online retail shops. They answer questions, help a customer learn more about what they are interested in and are available anytime.
Similarly, in a physical store, collaborative robots can take over the task of guiding customers through the shopping experience, answering their questions, responding to complaints and ensuring they get to everything they need in the shortest amount of time possible.
Also, the robot will give the customer personalized shopping experience. These are the kind of services that engender loyalty because a customer feels appreciated. It ensures you keep not only your existing customer base but also attract new ones.
2. Increased Efficiency When You Use Cobots to Retrieve Items for Your Customers
Based on the above Walmart example, you already know cobots in retail can be used to locate and log items. This helps your profit margin in the long run since you can maintain a sizable employee force and still get more done.
However, there is yet another significant benefit. Collaborative robots in a retail environment can be used to retrieve particular items ordered by a customer. Best Buy currently uses such a robot where customers order products via a touch screen downstairs, and a robot retrieves the items and delivers them to the customer.
If you are wondering how such a robot improves your bottom line, consider this; first, less theft which is quite an issue in most stores and it requires that a store employ some security personnel. Second, the cobot will not need a break; it will be available 24-7 hence creating a very efficient work environment capable of translating into more sales.
3. Takes Over the Repetitive Task of Stock Management
A significant selling point of collaborative robots is that they take over repetitive tasks and do them to perfection each time.
There is nothing as repetitive as stock management. It involves counting, recording then repeating the process all over again after a given time frame. When a retail cobot takes over, the rest of the employees are freed up for more value-adding tasks. Also, you can get more done in just a day which of course plays a huge part in generating more sales.
Now that you know the impact and value of retail collaborative robots, it is crucial to note that this value is not limited to the size of your company. It does not matter that you may have only a hundred employees and one store, as long as you tailor the robot application to your specific needs, then you will also enjoy the benefits of cobots.