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Robots Will Soon Be In The Store Helping to Fulfill Orders

As retailers continue to compete with e-commerce, they remain challenged in optimizing the use of in-store inventory as available to fulfill. The emergence of safe, mobile robots will help retailers to make better use of in-store inventory, while also enhancing the customer experience. Robots in the store will soon be used to not only handle product but to engage with the customer to improve customer service. -John Santagate, Research Director, IDC

Robots Will Soon Be In The Store Helping to Fulfill Orders

Several leading retailers have made public their efforts to bring robots into the store. The interesting thing is that they are looking at robots across a variety of use cases, as robotic technology can be quite versatile. One such area that can help retailers to efficiently leverage in-store inventory is in the role of fulfillment. In this context, we must consider fulfillment from the perspective of any customer interaction that helps to put product into the hands of the customer. In essence, there is an important role for robots to play in enabling an omnichannel fulfillment strategy.

Whether a customer is physically in the store or ordering online, robots can be leveraged as a mechanism to drive fulfillment strategy and improve the use of in-store inventory. The obvious application for robots in fulfillment is in the fulfillment center. However, the intelligence and capabilities of this technology is something that can, and should, be used in the store. Examples of the use of robots in the store to enable improved fulfillment include:

  • Facilitating In-Store Customer Interactions – There will always be a role for humans in the store. However, there are limitations to what a person can (or will) do to help a customer. In the near future, we can expect to see robots in retail stores helping to provide customers with the availability of product in the store, identifying alternative fulfillment options for products not available, and helping to complete transactions.
  • On-Shelf Inventory Availability – Robots can be equipped with a variety of sensors and vision systems that make them ideally suited to monitor on-shelf inventory. Using robots in this capacity helps to ease the effort required of in-store associates frequently tasked with manually monitoring on-shelf inventory. Retailers can use robots to automate the process of navigating throughout the store and digitally monitoring inventory levels. They can further be leveraged to notify people what product levels are and when to restock.
  • Picking In-Store Inventory – Click and collect and ship-from-store are valuable fulfillment options for many retailers. However, the process of pushing a cart throughout a store to pick a customer order is time consuming and expensive (compared with fulfillment center picking). Advances in robotic technology will soon enable stores to use robots to navigate to pick locations and signal to humans that it is ready for a person to drop product in its bin. This will drastically ease the traditional cost resource constraints involved in achieving ship-from-store excellence.

Retailers must consider the potential value of deploying robots in the store. As retailers look at building out their digital strategies moving forward, robotics will increasingly be considered as a technology that can improve the customer experience while helping to improve the fulfillment process.

The Outlook

Robotic technology is continuing to improve and deliver value across a wide range of use cases. As retailers work to enhance their ability to achieve true omnichannel fulfillment capabilities, they will increasingly look at robots as a technology with a wide range of potential. In retail, it is not just about physically handling material, it is also about interacting with customers and digitally connecting the operation. Robots will soon become a fixture within the store helping retailers to make optimal use of all available inventory.

Several leading retailers have made public their efforts to bring robots into the store. The interesting thing is that they are looking at robots across a variety of use cases, as robotic technology can be quite versatile. One such area that can help retailers to efficiently leverage in-store inventory is in the role of fulfillment. In this context, we must consider fulfillment from the perspective of any customer interaction that helps to put product into the hands of the customer. In essence, there is an important role for robots to play in enabling an omnichannel fulfillment strategy.

Whether a customer is physically in the store or ordering online, robots can be leveraged as a mechanism to drive fulfillment strategy and improve the use of in-store inventory. The obvious application for robots in fulfillment is in the fulfillment center. However, the intelligence and capabilities of this technology is something that can, and should, be used in the store. Examples of the use of robots in the store to enable improved fulfillment include:

  • Facilitating In-Store Customer Interactions – There will always be a role for humans in the store. However, there are limitations to what a person can (or will) do to help a customer. In the near future, we can expect to see robots in retail stores helping to provide customers with the availability of product in the store, identifying alternative fulfillment options for products not available, and helping to complete transactions.
  • On-Shelf Inventory Availability – Robots can be equipped with a variety of sensors and vision systems that make them ideally suited to monitor on-shelf inventory. Using robots in this capacity helps to ease the effort required of in-store associates frequently tasked with manually monitoring on-shelf inventory. Retailers can use robots to automate the process of navigating throughout the store and digitally monitoring inventory levels. They can further be leveraged to notify people what product levels are and when to restock.
  • Picking In-Store Inventory – Click and collect and ship-from-store are valuable fulfillment options for many retailers. However, the process of pushing a cart throughout a store to pick a customer order is time consuming and expensive (compared with fulfillment center picking). Advances in robotic technology will soon enable stores to use robots to navigate to pick locations and signal to humans that it is ready for a person to drop product in its bin. This will drastically ease the traditional cost resource constraints involved in achieving ship-from-store excellence.

Retailers must consider the potential value of deploying robots in the store. As retailers look at building out their digital strategies moving forward, robotics will increasingly be considered as a technology that can improve the customer experience while helping to improve the fulfillment process.

The Outlook

Robotic technology is continuing to improve and deliver value across a wide range of use cases. As retailers work to enhance their ability to achieve true omnichannel fulfillment capabilities, they will increasingly look at robots as a technology with a wide range of potential. In retail, it is not just about physically handling material, it is also about interacting with customers and digitally connecting the operation. Robots will soon become a fixture within the store helping retailers to make optimal use of all available inventory.

Robots Will Soon Be In The Store Helping to Fulfill Orders