Retailers approach tech’s cutting edge with caution
Some of the most headline-grabbing retail technology is just the kind of stuff that retailers are hesitating to adopt, according to a new survey.
Robots, drones, beacons and facial recognition have thus far been adopted by fewer than 10 percent of retailers, according to a Total Retail report. This is despite other forms of retail technology, such as inventory management and order management systems, being adopted by 69 percent. It might be the case for the foreseeable future as well; while nearly three-fourths of those polled plan to increase tech spending over the next year, less than 20 percent plan to invest in the four cutting-edge technologies.
While few retailers appear to be adopting these hotly discussed technologies, some big names have piloted them. None of these pilots have come without criticism over questions of usefulness, privacy and safety depending on the technology.
At the beginning of the year Ahold Delhaize-owned Giant Foods and Stop & Shop announced the roll-out of a googly-eyed customer-facing robotic assistant named Marty, used to identify spills with an eye towards eventually managing inventory. In the spring, Walmart announced it would be rolling out floor-scrubbing robots to 1,500 locations.
Drones, both aerial and land-based, have been piloted as potential solutions to last-mile delivery difficulties with small vendors and names as big as Google, Amazon.com and UPS getting in on the act.
Beacons have come into use by, for instance, Target, which enables wayfinding via app based around Bluetooth beacons built into its LED lighting.
Facial recognition has been perhaps the most controversial of the cutting-edge solutions being piloted. A smart cooler pilot by Walgreens raised the concerns of privacy advocates over data collection.
While some uses remain questionable, customers seem more willing to avail themselves of in-store technology than ever before with the right use case and demonstrable value. Recent National Retail Federation numbers show 66 percent of consumers believe in-store technology has improved their shopping experiences.
- Retail Technology: All Talk, No Implementation – JD Supra
- NRF: Roving robots report for work at all Giant Foods stores – RetailWire
- Will Walmart clean up with its robotic workforce? – RetailWire
- Target guides customers through the aisles with beacons – RetailWire
- NRF study says customers dig retail tech – RetailWire
- Walgreens tests tech that sort of recognizes you in-store – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are retailers wise to be cautious about investing in cutting-edge technologies (e.g., robots, drones, beacons and facial recognition)? At what point, if ever, will said technologies be considered tried-and-true?