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Robots the Future Rulers of Retail

Advances in technology and innovation are bringing more robots into stores.

In a not so distant future robots will do everything for us, what am I talking about robots are already taking over, most warehouses have switch to robot movers getting shelves from point A to point B. I know you are thinking the terminator is moving boxes but no, picture smaller toy cars with the ability to lift an adult comfortably, running around, but that does not mean they cannot create a hive mind link and destroy us all.

Well, that sounded more dramatic than it needs to be, but the cold hard facts are that we have to be open to robots being more involved in our daily lives and business.

According to CNBC Amazon installed 15,000 robots (mover bots), in 10 across the U.S. warehouses, a move that promises to cut operating costs by one-fifth and get packages out the door faster. This was in late 2014 they have scaled up since to about 45,000 robots.

The orange 320-pound (145 kg) robots, which scoot around the floor on wheels, show how Amazon has adopted technology developed by Kiva Systems, a robotics company it bought for $775 million in 2012.

Other retail brands have taken steps to make sure they are not left behind in this ever-changing market. Best Buy has an in-store robotic arm called Chloe. The arm allows shoppers to make purchases without the help or need of a shop assistant; it can move vertically and horizontally on a wall to retrieve game, movies, earbuds and other accessories. One of the cool things about the way it is used is that the arm operates behind a glass window so the shopper can see the movement which creates a new shopping experience for customers in that store. The arm is also helping in another way, by handling sales it frees up staff members to do other activities within the shop.

Robots in Stores

Here is where it gets fun, robots are moving from the back to the main stage of stores, the more sophisticated models. If you can remember Pepper, this little bot was made for interacting with customers, giving them direction, information and overall making the shopping experience more than just buying some random items. Two companies did a pilot program using the Pepper, Palo Alto tech shop alluded to a 70 percent increase in foot traffic during the week, they had Pepper working with them. A second pilot in a Santa Monica retail outlet saw a 13 percent revenue increase and a six-fold boost in sales of featured products.

The question is, was it the robot or did they do something different? I am leaning towards the robot for apparent reasons, apart from the fact that it is a robot in a store which is already a major selling point, the shopping experience would have changed dramatically, their customers had the chance to interact with something new, not as a prop but something that was assisting. That is the takeaway, do not add random gadgets to catch shoppers eyes; they must serve an actual purpose with the shop environment.

If a Pepper is too much for you, maybe try Tally.

It tracks inventory on the store’s shelves by scanning product barcodes to identify diminishing stock, misplaced and mispriced items. This is great as it takes a load off your staff checking inventory and reduces any human error that may occur.

Mechanised Future

Having robots around will change how we live and experience life, Amazon is working on drone delivery, Domino's is trying out their self-driving cars to deliver pizza, and humanoid robots are slowly creeping into everyday life. Yes, there will be casualties on the human side as we lose jobs, but for now, retailers need to retool staff to work with robots and utilise them to create a fun, friction-less in-store experience for customers.

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