Does shopping from departmental stores hassles you? Worry not; soon you may be accompanied by a robot to make your shopping easy and fun. Researchers in robotics are leaving no stones unturned to bring a fully automated store in reality in next several years. Though many shoppers are getting inclined towards the online shopping but still physical stores dominate the retail. As per the new data from U.S. Department of Commerce 93% of total U.S. retail sales come from the physical stores. Due to the accelerating remuneration, retailers are making an effort to increase their profit margins by substituting workers with the robots. The uniqueness of these robots can even increase the foot fall of more customers particularly if they focus more on consumer service.
Retailers are lured towards robotics for consumers but shipping and logistics companies which are the backbone of any retail business are also adopting the technology. According to latest MHI and Deloitte survey, 51 % people belonging to supply chain and logistics think that their companies can get competitive edge through robotics and automation.
Amazon, the online retailer has been already using robots expansively in its distribution centers to package and ship orders to brisk up customer delivery time and reduce operation cost at around 20 percent. This giant e-tailer purchased 320-pound robots from Kiva Systems for $775 million in 2012.For the 2014 holiday season, the company installed more than 15000 robots in 10 warehouses.
With the technology advances, a new generation of Robots is gearing up from mere back-end operations towards the retail stores where they would be interacting with humans at store fronts. Some of the retailers have pioneered in adopting robotics. Lowe’s, a home-improvement chain, has been successfully testing OSHbot from two years in its Orchard Supply Hardware subsidiary. OSHbot interacts with customers from a touchscreen menu and can help them in finding the right product and guide them to shelve where the item is placed.
Best Buy has also started using Chloe, a customer service robot which retrieves DVD’s and personal electronic products from a racked collection of 15000 units as per the customer requests from kiosk and delivers the item in about 30seconds. Last year, Mitsukoshi, Japan’s oldest department store chain also hired a humanoid robot, ChihiraAico. The robot is dressed in the Japanese attire and smiles, sings and greets all the customers who enter the store. Target, one of the prominent retailers, is also testing robot Tally, which can travel through passage ways around the store and scan products for tracking the misplaced, mispriced or low inventory.
Retail is setting up to embrace robots to the fullest and before it becomes commonplace in sales floor, robotics will undergo many changes in the years to come.