Are You Being Served? Robots In Retail

The most established uses of robots in retail is within the back end, in the warehouse and in a logistics capacity. Yes, they can keep accurate track of inventory, fetch specific items on command, and do heavy lifting. But robots are also proving themselves highly adept at the customer service side of retail.

The benefits of robots in retail stores are twofold: not only do they serve customers in a way that leaves them with a memorable brand experience, they also boost retailer productivity. Efficiency gains from freeing up staff for more complex tasks, whilst making the shopping process fun and simple, makes things easier for everyone.

Robots in Retail

Customer Service Retail Robots

Bo is an outstanding example of a customer service retail robot that’s worth its weight in gold. Bo is able to optimise the customer journey in several ways. Recommending products or helping customers to find the product they are specifically looking for, Bo uses in-built software to identify and locate particular products and take customers directly to them. He can also suggest alternatives or accompanying items to make the shopping trip faster and more interesting.

Where Bo is unable to find a solution to a particular request, it will politely hand over the enquiry to a human sales associate. The benefit here is that simple tasks can be completed without human intervention, thus leaving sales staff free to handle more complex questions and queries.

Bo conducts all its work in-store with a positive and consistent attitude to delivering high quality service 24/7. Bo will engage the customer in general conversation, building rapport and entertaining the customer as it goes. Bo is also a great tool for accessibility for differently abled customers and staff to engage with. Where a customer may have difficulty communicating for any reason, Bo’s touchscreen makes it easy for them to make their query in an easier and less conspicuous way.

The interactive and reactive nature of bots like Bo is a powerful word-of-mouth channel. In terms of driving footfall to the store for its entertainment value, it’s a highly valuable tool. Studies have found that 48% of customers followed the robot’s advice to visit a shop, and once customers are in-store, 30% of those who interacted with a robot purchased one or more items.
Data and Insights

This is all incredibly positive on the customer service side, but the value of robots in retail stores does not end there. By engaging with Bo, customers inadvertently deliver important data for retailers. Customers use Bo to answer their queries with less inhibition than with human sales staff, whom the customer tends to perceive as too busy to bother with their enquiry, and in doing so quantifiable information about customer needs, demands, and pain points are identified.

These insights, gathered in a way that is not threatening to customers sensitive about data collection, can be used to improve a wide range of factors affecting the effectiveness and efficiency of the store from a customer experience perspective. These can be as basic as making sure the right products are on shelf and always in stock or that they are positioned in the correct part of the store based on customers mixing and matching. Or as complex as highlighting certain routes across stores at peak times to make the journey as efficient as possible or driving traffic to areas that are not naturally in customers’ ways.

Retail Robots and Omnichannel

Moreover, the use of bots like Bo can aid retailers with the growing demand for omnichannel accessibility. The online/offline dichotomy is now blurring considerably, with brands expected to carry their online offering across to in-store and vise versa. With their screen and in-store availability, customers have the opportunity to extend their online shopping experience to the in-store environment through the use of in-built software within the connected robot.

The tireless nature of customer service robots in retail suggest an opportunity for longer store opening hours and shorter shifts for human employees, as a robot can run for 24 hours. Where the robot needs charging, it can be swapped with an identical alternative. The staff are freer, under less stress, and can turn their attention to more engaging tasks, meaning a more enriching job role overall.