Robots are slowly moving from science fiction into reality, becoming steadily part of our daily lives and even finding their way into our stores.
The latest in technological innovation and design is bringing us a selection of robots able to hold a conversation, joke, dance, move, carry objects and even adapt their behaviour according to our facial expressions and tone of voice. Some include Actroid, from the Kokoro company, Asimo, from Honda, or Nao and Pepper from Aldebaran Robotics. But can they really replace a human, even at the point-of-sale?
In Asia, they’re opting for robotics…
Nestlé has already thrown itself into robotics. The global food manufacturer announced in December 2014 that Japanese customers will be welcomed in stores by Pepper Robots (by Aldebaran Robotics) to help sell coffee machines and offer advice.
Softbank in Tokyo has also equipped its 70 mobile telephone stores with Pepper robots. Their role is to advise and submit articles based on the needs and tastes of consumers.
… But that doesn’t mean the end of the human interaction in our shops!
Despite the general rise in technology and our growing appetite for data, humans can never really be replaced in stores. Faced with the relatively cold and impersonal nature of digital interactions, customers are still sensitive to the human contact and personal relationships that can be forged in stores. A salesperson’s smile can go a long way towards customer relations.
It’s something that brands are well aware of – particularly the importance of bringing web & store together, with connected solutions.
As for the robots – are they a good thing or bad thing? Opinions differ, and the jury will still be out for some time, most likely: many Europeans still see them as potentially stealing jobs; while people in Asia appear to be more open.