The retail industry is looking to adopt new robotic technology faster than expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with widespread adoption now expected in just a few years, according to a new survey conducted by RetailWire and Brain Corp.
The results of the survey underscore the growing significance of robotic automation technology in the post-pandemic marketplace. These technologies are seen as key for assisting workers with a variety of tasks, from floor cleaning to shelf scanning, both in stores and in warehouses.
- 64% of retailers believe it is important to have a clear, executable, and budgeted robotics automation strategy in place in 2021, including 77% of large retailers.
- Nearly half of the respondents say they will be involved with an in-store robotics project within the next 18 months.
- 73% of large retailers say the importance of using robotics in warehouses or distribution centers has increased due to factors that emerged during the pandemic.
- Other pandemic factors that influenced a change in thinking included the need to provide a safer, cleaner store for shoppers; the need for enhanced social distancing; and the need to improve on-shelf inventory availability.
Cleanliness became a major priority for retailers and grocers during the pandemic as stores rushed to meet heightened consumer expectations. The survey shows that these increased cleanliness standards are the new normal: the vast majority (72%) of respondents say they do not anticipate much change in consumer expectations toward in-store cleanliness even after vaccines are broadly distributed.
The survey also shows that retailers are looking to use robotic solutions for in-store functions like automating tasks and collecting environmental data for improving customer experiences. This includes robotic applications for
- scanning shelves for stockouts (59%),
- order picking (47%),
- delivering goods from the back warehouse to store shelves (35%),
- pricing accuracy checks (35%),
- and more.
Source: Brain Corp