Especially in an age when consumers can do nearly all of their shopping from the comfort of their couches — ordering items ranging from groceries and hardware to electronics, apparel and nearly everything in between, all from online retailers with just a few clicks of their smartphones — the retail experience has taken on all-new levels of importance. To effectively draw consumers into their brick-and-mortar stores, savvy retailers must go to new lengths to offer an experience that shoppers simply can’t get online or on their phones.
Enter the retail robot. With automation and artificial intelligence reshaping the retail industry in a number of ways, it should come as no huge surprise that robots are on the rise in retail-experience enhancement. Serving purposes such as helping consumers navigate store aisles and products, keeping track of inventory and pricing, adding a unique “wow” experience for shoppers, and many more, robots are being employed by national retail giants like Lowes (where the LoweBot helps customers locate items) and Walmart (where robots scrub floors, scan shelves for missing items and pricing accuracy, unload trucks, and more), as well as in an array of ways by smaller retailers.
Could your retail business use the help of a space-age, AI-driven assistant that streamlines processes and piques consumer interest? Consider these five ways that robots can enhance the retail experience for your customers:
1. Scanning store stock
We all know the frustration of navigating our way to that item we’re looking for (and even on occasion the sole item we came to the store to get), only to find an empty shelf when we get there. And specialized scanner robots are made to roam store aisles identifying locations where product is missing from the shelves, then send images to team members’ handheld devices to alert them that replenishment is needed. Some can even take the task a step further by alerting staff members (or even fellow robots) tasked with unloading delivery trucks to prioritize the item(s) in low supply. Bonus: The scanning robots also provide real-time “top of the funnel” data to retailers by letting them know what’s currently popular with buyers, helping them keep a constant eye on consumer preferences and actions.
2. Charging up checkout
Nobody likes waiting in long lines to check out — and the aversion to this unwanted wait has only grown for the majority of consumers in the age of coronavirus and social distancing. And while self-checkout kiosks are a clear step in the right direction, Panasonic has developed a fully robotic checkout experience that has already been introduced in Japan. The “Reji Robo” (short for “register robot”) lets customers simply drop their scanner-enabled baskets off with the robot at checkout, then the tech tool rings up and bags all of the items while the customer pays for them, facilitating a lightning-fast (and, at least to most consumers, fascinating) checkout process.
3. Encouraging engagement
Let’s face it — consumers have grown so accustomed to most in-store displays that most tend to pass right by them without much notice. But with the help of robots, in-store displays can capture attention and give potential buyers a solid reason to stop for a closer look. One example, the Tokinomo display, uses built-in motion sensors to sense when customers are nearby, then initiates a chosen combination of motion, lights and sound to make whatever product being displayed really “jump off the shelves.” According to the producer, the average sales increase resulting from the interactive display tops 200%.
4. Stepping up service
Especially in big-box stores selling items for which choosing the right option/fit might require specialized expertise (think hardware stores, etc.), finding human help can sometimes be a real chore for consumers. Solving this problem is the idea behind the aforementioned LoweBot, which can help customers with simple needs related to, for example, item location and inventory. Another take on boosting customer service with AI can be seen in the robotic carts being tested by Walmart, which can automate the shopping process by picking up and packing customers’ online orders.
5. Adding ‘open’ hours
Shoppers’ needs don’t always end when store hours do, and the market for after-hours shopping is especially significant in large metropolises the likes of New York City and Los Angeles. Recognizing this, some retailers (Best Buy, for example) have found a way to extend purchase windows using retail robots — via kiosks that allow shoppers to pick up a selection of often-needed and essential items 24/7, whether within store hours or not. When shoppers enter the store vestibule and choose their items, a robotic arm pulls the item from the stock available in what resembles a giant vending machine, then places it in a buyer-accessible receptacle for easy anytime procurement.
Could your retail business benefit from the guidance of a group of professional marketers with broad insights on consumer motivations and a proven track record of effectively creating “wow” in-store experiences for customers? At The Brandon Agency, our team of certified brand strategists and data-driven marketing experts has helped a long list of retail-industry clients implement buyer experiences that draw customers in and keep them coming back. Further, TBA’s fully integrated marketing firm can cover the full spectrum of your brand’s marketing needs, including brand strategy, web design, creative, media, e-commerce, analytics, social media, SEO, conversion rate optimization and more — all of which can work together at every customer touchpoint to build brand loyalty. To get started with help ranging from a store-design analysis to a comprehensive strategy tailored to boost the performance of all of your marketing campaigns, contact us today.