Yesterday, I had the chance to make a quick stop at the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show 2017 in NYC. It was interesting to see some of the technology on display for retailers and after an hour or so of walking the show floor, you could see patterns and groupings of service and technology providers: point of sale equipment, analytics solutions, retail display companies, and then Fortune 500 company booths with ambiguous offerings but lots of traffic.
At least two companies stuck out — Softbank Robotics and Fellow Robotics. Both have robots that are designed to help guide customers in stores.
Talking with customer sales reps in stores can be difficult. Sometimes, you just need to find our where something is located and occasionally, you need some real advice on products.
Robots like Softbank’s Pepper or the Fellow Robotics’ NAVii can help guide customers to products without the awkwardness of being pushed to sell. Likewise, as a customer, walking away from one of these robots is less likely to hurt their feelings (for now). Actually, keeping these robots less human-like will be important. They’ll likely be more affective that if we were to create Westworld human-like hosts.
For these robots, voice interaction will be a challenge in loud malls and storefronts. However, with appropriate DSPs and mic arrays, the interaction might still be compelling.
If these companies can demonstrate ROI to retailers who use robots then it’s possible for the retailers to redeploy humans to more happiness-inducing roles where they can use their creativity.