Innovation is a key focus for many sectors and retail is no different. Robots are one of the many pieces of technology that are quickly becoming an important component within the industry. They can add value to many stages of the supply chain to encourage sustainable growth. Robots are becoming the first customer touch point in retail outlets and alongside machine-learning, artificial intelligence and analytics, it can enhance the levels of customer engagement.

Warehouses globally across the retail sector are looking to leverage robots to increase efficiency and upgrade the responsibilities of their employees. The global robotics market is estimated to reach USD 87 Billion by 2025 according to Boston Consulting Group and it is believed that with retail constantly being an early adopter of advanced technology, more than half of this will be allocated for the retail market. While the majority of innovation is occurring at the warehouse and supply chain level, retailers are beginning to realise that this must extend far beyond these.

Robotics can drive innovation in a wide variety of areas of operation across the retail value chain, and help boost top and bottom-line outcomes. Robots can make a difference at many points along the retail value chain from welcoming customers and in store improvements to customer path observation and analysis.

Robotics are also responsible for boosting productivity in the logistics and supply chain whether that’s picking orders or monitoring stock. For example, the use of robots in the logistics and supply chain reduces the level of administrative errors, achieving sizeable savings from stock-out shortages and losses while gaining the ability to move their sales personnel to functions that will drive higher sales. Furthermore, with drones beginning to deliver small packages, there is optimism that they will be able to deliver larger items in the near future.

Merchandising and Store Operations is another area that could benefit from robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) allowing retailers to transform their customer interactions such as offering personalised recommendations driven by analytical insights. Robots could be preprogrammed to answer customers' questions and give directions and even collect items that customers select in store. Customers are availing from personalised shopping experiences as a result of AI and big data and retailers can use this information to derive actionable insights and improve in-store and out-of store promotional activities. New technology has brought about augmented or virtual reality robotics to immerse consumers in a virtual environment for a more engaging and enticing experience.

With their increasing levels of usage and evolving sophistication, robots will be ever present in the future of the retail sector. They will create efficient and personalised experiences for customers while for retailers, they will bring about better productivity, lower costs, enhanced customer experiences and a boost in profits. There is so much potential for robotics in the retail industry and leveraging this technology in the right way will help drive transformation across the retail value chain.

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