AI & Robotics Applications Promoting Productivity in Retail

25 Jun 2024

Artificial intelligence and robotics have a largely unearned reputation for stealing jobs and putting hard-working, honest people out of work. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Robotics and AI have the potential to streamline many mundane or repetitive tasks, freeing up employees for more complex, essential, or customer-focused tasks. How are AI and robotics applications promoting productivity in retail?

Shelving for Inventory Management

Utilizing RFID trackers for inventory management isn’t a new concept. Equipping products with RFID tags enables companies to track their inventory from the moment it leaves the manufacturing facility until a consumer takes it home. Meshing RFID technology with shelves with weight sensors and an AI algorithm to track the data can take this technology to the next level.

Weight sensors can detect when someone takes an object from the shelf. The AI can automatically update the inventory reports when it matches a sale. It can help improve productivity by reducing the time necessary for manual inventory tracking. This technology can benefit both retail storefronts and the warehouses that support them.

Supporting Audits

Speaking of inventory audits, these can take an incredible amount of time. Many big corporations outsource the task, bringing in third-party counters to keep track of each piece of inventory in their facility. Robotics, especially those supported by an AI algorithm, could carry out audits using computer vision to scan the shelves and count each available item.

This application could reduce or even eliminate the need for manual inventory counts. The downside is that messy or overstuffed shelves might prove challenging for the robotic auditor to analyze.

Bettering Customer Experience

Customer service is generally considered a task requiring human intervention, but the retail industry could easily automate many components of the experience. AI-based chatbots are becoming a popular choice for answering frequently asked customer questions. If the problem is more complex, it can go to a customer service representative, but most people only consider perceived humanness when deciding if they’re satisfied or not.

Speaking to a chatbot is much better than sitting on hold or waiting for a human agent to answer their questions. This application also frees up human agents to tackle those more complex tasks without worrying simple questions aren’t getting answers.

Improving Warehousing Efficiency

Retail efficiency and productivity aren’t just crucial in storefronts. It starts in the warehouse because retail workers can’t be productive with empty shelves. Pairing robotics with a powerful AI and machine-learning system can help business owners make the most of warehouse setups to optimize efficiency and productivity.

Warehouses already generate massive amounts of data, from inventories to customer orders and even client demographics. Sorting through that data and turning it into actionable insights is the task of an AI system.

Improving Workplace and Consumer Safety

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many businesses operate — including their hours. Companies that used to be open 24 hours a day now keep more limited hours to give their teams time to clean and sterilize their facilities. Robotics can help remove some of the burdens of cleaning and fixing from human team members, as multiple airports have already discovered.

These autonomous robots can travel the facility using UV-C lights to sterilize commonly touched surfaces. UV radiation kills bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that could transmit illness in these highly trafficked spaces.

The Future of Robots in Retail

Robotics and AI are just beginning to make appearances in retail spaces. These technologies could have potentially positive impacts on retail productivity. Working side by side with these devices will take some getting used to for anyone who’s spent their career in retail, but the benefits are worth a bit of discomfort.