Are Robots Really Taking Over Retail?


robotsSince 1977, when R2D2 first showed up in the theater, it seems that robots have become commonplace. They now vacuum our floors, assemble our cars, monitor our homes, and even perform surgery. Indeed, our world is becoming more automated.

But what does this mean to us in our everyday lives? We order pizza from our computers, withdraw cash from an ATM that never sleeps, and push buttons on our phones in the hope of reaching a real person. A recent Vancouver Sun article claims, “Such automation has become so common that Starbucks is taking steps to make sure the process doesn’t feel so, well, robotic.”

When it comes to shopping, robots are becoming an integral part of the experience. Forbes reports that robots make buying groceries a lot easier with on-demand shopping. Lowe’s is testing a “Lowebot” that helps shoppers find what they’re looking for in their cavernous stores, and many companies are actually “training” robots to assume a customer service role.

Best Buy is testing “Chloe,” a robot that retrieves products from the shelves. According to TechEmergence, “Customers can use touch screens in the store to pick out merchandise they want, such as earbuds, movies, video games, or other accessories. Shoppers can then watch the arm navigate the shelves to retrieve their products.”

No, it’s not about reducing staff. The hope is that robots will streamline the customer experience and make us all more efficient and happier shoppers. May the force be with them.