Unlike a multi-faceted human store associate, the majority of robots can only take care of limited tasks due to lack of emotional connect. Consumers have admitted robots hamper the essence of the customer journey.
Retailers and brands are opting for robots to help differentiate themselves in this increasingly competitive marketplace to get the job done. The primary motivation is to save money in the long run by employing robots instead of humans to carry out low-skill, repetitive tasks. It also multiplies the foot traffic due to the novelty of having a robot in the retail stores.
But robots and other lackluster new-age retail technology, including augmented reality and virtual change rooms— do not necessarily enhance the in-store experience. Often, they detract from it. Contrary to popular misconception, consumers are not ready for these so-called “artificial human support.”
Retailers today are obsessed with outsourcing low-level retail duties to AI-driven robots. Like all other industries, retail is massively undergoing periods of transition. But, experts now reveal that retail is ripe for this disruption. The retail sector continues to have inefficiencies when it comes to brand consistency, internal communications, and control at the store-level. Automation is inevitable in all industries, and retail is no exception. According to a previous report, 20% of retail salespeople’s current work activities could be automated by the year 2030.
Automation will lead to increased productivity, allowing employees to focus more on the tailored customer needs. Walmart recently announced plans to add approximately 4,000 robots to its stores and facilities over the next couple of years in the form of delivery truck unloaders, autonomous floor cleaners, purchase pickup towers, and shelf scanners. This initiative is a part of a global transition, moving human workers to customer-facing roles. Then they can exclusively focus on customer engagement over routine, mundane tasks. Walmart has also pledged $2.7 billion investment over the next two years to increase worker wages as well as education and training expenses.
The problem occurs when robots and new-age technology replaces the human connection between a retailer or brand and its customers. Technology is like a virtual mirror for trying on products or a robotic steward that helps customers to find products. But, retailers are missing the bigger picture by replacing trained associate who understands the nuances and uses cases of each product,
In a world driven by the internet, almost everything is just a click away. Retailers need to realize that what drives their demand is personalized service, and not only the products and services. Technology can never be a replacement for an authentic human or brand connection. Consumer tastes may vary, but the human experience should always remain at the heart of retail technology.
Consumers continue to crave a human connection when shopping. According to a survey, 75% of respondents confirmed that technology becomes more pervasive in retail and that they want a more social interaction as they shop. Though investing in robots to carry out repetitive tasks and connect with customers may make financial sense in the end. However, retailers must admit that if they want to provide value to customers, they need to prioritize their investments in training and technology to improve the in-store experience.