Automation, robots and retail’s answer to Pokémon Go
Self-checkout has been around for some time, and it has often been quoted in research studies that shoppers prefer to interact with machines rather than store staff. Recently, however, self-serve has taken a step forward, offering customers the scan-as-you-shop model to process their groceries. This not only reduces costs for the retailer, but provides an ultimately better experience for the customer, who inevitably feels more in control over the scanning and packing of their purchases.
Additionally, electronic shelf labels are helping retailers stay price-competitive against their industry counterparts. Changing pricing is an incredibly time-consuming, and manual process, particularly across multiple store locations, and although price-matching guarantees have become popular, many consumers will do their own research and simply go to the store with the lowest price, rather than barter with one store. Electronic shelf labels allow retailers to have the control to adjust prices throughout the day in all of their stores.
Businesses are also using technology as a way to manage their inventory, with Walmart recently rolling out shelf-scanning robots across 50 of their stores. The new recruits are able to check items for incorrect pricing, scan the shelves for misplaced items and report any discrepancies to employees. The robots are cited as being 50% more effective at their job than humans, as well as taking on tasks that human employees are likely to find mundane. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, more than half of all retail work activities could eventually be automated using current technologies.
The incredible success of Pokémon Go served as testament to the fact that augmented reality (AR) is adept at engaging customers to a brand. AR goes beyond gaming and virtual reality (VR), as it combines the present world with the digital world, providing a far more immersive experience for the user. In retail, using AR consumers can interact with products that are out of stock in-store, again, helping retailers with issues in managing inventory levels against demand. In the home, shoppers will be able to superimpose furniture items into a given space before purchasing, giving them more control over the process, which will likely lead to more sales.