Consumers and retailers ready for robot helpers in store, but security and cost doubts could stall plans

A recent survey on the use of humanoid robots in retail stores, has found that 31% of retailers will be using the technology at some point in the future, with 14% expecting to have it in place in the next 12 months. The research, conducted by Qmatic, the customer journey management expert, also found that half of retailers agree that customers are now ready for such advanced technology in-store.

60% of the sample of decision makers at UK high street retailers told Qmatic that they believed robotics would improve the in-store experience for customers, with 54% agreeing it would have a positive impact on the overall omnichannel experience for shoppers, to enable retailers to enhance the customer experience and provide a consistent journey between the online and a physical store.

When it comes to the key benefits of robots for the retailers, 60% believed that the use of humanoid robots would increase their ability to create seamless services in-store, such as Click & Collect. Indeed, Click & Collect topped the poll for the most suitable area of retailing for robots, with 62% of retailers identifying it as among their top three, followed by customer services with 48%, and appointment booking or connecting to expert help with 42%.

Key challenges for the introduction of robotics to retail were security concerns, identified by 63% of respondents, a fear there would be poor integration with existing technology to reap the benefits of an omnichannel experience (52%) and the expense of implementation or development costs (46%). Only 15% said that consumer adoption would be an issue, and 12% felt that they did not want to replace their workforce with robots for tasks.

Vanessa Walmsley, Managing Director at Qmatic UK Ltd, commented: “Most of the retailers we spoke to were positive about the use of humanoid robotics in their stores – for some of the forward-thinking brands, it was very much on their radar. Robots are one way that retailers can offer a personalised, seamless service that very much feels like an extension of how we already run our lives digitally via our smartphones. Robots can offer a valuable touchpoint for retailers where in-store friction – such as queuing or trying to find something – is eliminated, and the number of customers who leave a store without their details being captured is better managed.”

*The survey took place in May 2017, interviewing 52 retail decision makers with a UK operation, including B&Q, Tesco, John Lewis, House of Fraser and Jane Norman.