Where can robots assist in retail’s COVID-19 efforts?
Robots have been hailed for their effectiveness as contagion-proof workers in hospitals and are being seen as a potential solution for retail’s new COVID-19-related challenges.
Among the areas where robots may help retailers:
Shopping: Enjoy the Store in Redding, CA is testing what it calls “telemarketing,” whereby an online browser logs onto a retailer’s website to take control of a robot inside the store, KRCTV reports. The browser then wheels the robot around the shop to view merchandise and can ask the staff questions.
Security: In some overseas markets, robots are screening customers for mask-wearing and body temperature before they can go inside stores as well as monitoring social distancing compliance in public areas. Drones and robots are reminding people to socially distance. The police department in Westport, CT last month tested a “pandemic drone” that can monitor people’s temperatures from 190 feet away and detect sneezing, coughing and heart and breathing rates.
Sanitation: Autonomous floor-scrubbing robots roaming floors can augment cleansing efforts and gauge which aisles are most heavily trafficked and need extra attention. On CBS News’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Amazon.com unveiled a UV light-emitting robot prototype designed to kill viruses and germs in its warehouses and Whole Foods stores.
Delivery: At Broad Branch Market in Washington, D.C., about half of its deliveries a day to homes are handled by robots that look like picnic coolers. At one Best Buy store, a robotic cart was spotted supporting curbside delivery. Drones, sidewalk robots and self-driving cars all supporting delivery remain in test mode at numerous retailers, but COVID-19 is expected to be a catalyst for greater investments and adoption.
Scanning store shelves for stock-outs and automating pick and pack and other functions at warehouses are also touted as potential robotic benefits.
Beyond safety, retailers are looking to robotics for possible cost savings, although they face a potential backlash from replacing human workers.
- Autonomous delivery’s viability grows – National Retail Federation
- Robot Deliveries Might End Up Being Common, Post-Coronavirus Pandemic – Car And Driver
- “Teleshopping” robot rolls out at Redding store – KRCTV
- Why robots aren’t delivering your groceries during the pandemic – CNN Business
- Robots ride to rescue as delivery risks rise – TechExplore
- A TikTok showing an unmanned vehicle doing Best Buy curbside delivery went viral, with viewers calling it ‘cute’ – Business Insider
- Amazon built a roving robot covered in UV light bulbs that could kill the coronavirus in warehouses and Whole Foods stores – Business Insider
- U.S. Retail Robots Are Working Overtime – Morning Brew
- Market Playbook: 3 Examples of Robotics in Retail Transformation – Robotics Business Review
- Robots Take Center Stage In COVID-19 Crisis – Pymnts
- Stores in Italy are using robots to screen customers for mask wearing and high temperatures before they can go inside as the country reopens – Business Insider
- Are Robots Overrated? – Harvard Business Review
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: In what areas will robots likely offer the biggest benefit in helping retailers navigate the coronavirus pandemic? What proposed solutions seem far-fetched?