RETAIL: HOW INNOVATION IS CHANGING THE MARKET
The world of retail is changing rapidly, and much of this change has been enabled by the contribution from new technologies.
Technology has been shaking the industrial sector since the late 18th century. Nowadays this sector is having a mass use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots, which have also been introduced in warehouses to automate daily processes. For a long period of time, the retail market has been attached to its traditions and was reluctant to change, but part of this change, is attributed to the increased use of internet. We live in an age of constant technological evolution, where online retail, mobile shopping and digital payment systems have become the norm in the retail market. Customer behavior dictates retail industry, yearly trends and new technologies. Thus, companies working within this market need to look into these new technologies as the next generation of tools, they and the entire market will benefit from it. Innovation and technology go hand in hand with change in customer behavior, which recently had a huge shift to online, bringing with it permanent effects and long-term impacts on retail industry. Given this scenario, the retail market needs to embrace robotic technology as a key driver for productivity. To be well prepared for these changes, grocery retailers have had to rethink operations, supply chains and the entire online experience.
Robots are Changing
To keep tradition and innovation walking step by step towards the digitalization process and the creation of an efficient customer experience, the secret, as shown by “Amazon Go”, is to reduce the time used for purchasing. Another key aspect to have satisfied customers, is to create a more personalized service and avoid repetitive manual tasks for the employees. The best solution to achieve this personalization, is to use an autonomous mobile robot that can solve the problem by taking care of the transportation. The robot takes care of moving products from the warehouse to the store and leave the items automatically next to employees that in the meantime can dedicate their full attention to the customers. Consequently, in a supermarket the main tasks of the employee will be to focus on preparing fresh food and create a more customized experience for the customer. In the future, we will see an increase in interactions between people and robots, which will share the same environment. Robots are an important part of the workforce in industrial and logistics environments, and as technology is evolving, are entering the retail market as a useful helper for the workers. Just a few years ago, the idea of having robots in supermarkets was reserved to sci-fi movies, but after a trial period they have been a great success, and today are starting to become a reality. An important remark is that human contact is not being discarded and, on the contrary, can be increased, as by delegating some of the tasks to the robots, employees are gaining back time to focus on other duties. The human-robot interaction will create a completely new experience not only for the workers but also for the customers.
High efficiency and happy customers are objectives shared by most retail companies. In connection to that, retailers are concerned about how customers will react to the introduction of robots in the environment. Keeping up to date with technological innovation is a part of this process and a way to survive in the marketplace. In recent years, several pilot programs have been conducted around the world where robots have been tested and introduced in retail environments for varying periods of time. In most cases, customers had a positive response even though there were concerns about the robots taking people’s jobs in the future. The main idea is to introduce robots in the retail industry to work shoulder-to-shoulder with workers. As robots will take care of those repetitive and monotonous tasks, employees can dedicate their time to more intellectual tasks. Adding robots to the work environment will not eliminate human workers but will reduce people’s health issues caused by repetitive and strenuous tasks and create a better work environment where tasks are shared. Among other things, this will increase employees’ satisfaction and work productivity as they can make a better use of their time with more interesting tasks. Moreover, it improves the complete retail experience also for the customers, as employees can focus on improved customer service. People are naturally afraid of change, but since the first Industrial Revolution, we have seen how technology has changed the work environment creating new jobs and new tasks. An important part of this change must come from employers, which need to be open to the transition and to create opportunities for their workers to gain new skills and create new job opportunities. As we know, history repeats itself, and the introduction of robots in retail industry is just one step into Industry 4.0.