The Value of AI Robots in Grocery Retail
Posted: 09/13/2021 | Author: Jim Lochner for Creatives On Call | Tags: Thought Leadership
If you haven’t rubbed elbows with a robot in the frozen food aisle yet, you probably will soon. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data are transforming the grocery industry. AI-driven robots help drive fulfillment in massive warehouses, while in-store bots scan store shelves daily, taking high-definition pictures of products. Machine learning algorithms then examine the images for misplaced products, out-of-stock items, incorrect labeling, and price discrepancies. With this greater visibility into their physical (and digital) shelves, grocers can ensure a smooth, seamless shopping experience for consumers in real-time.
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Robots in Warehouses
Robots are becoming more common in modern grocery warehouses, at least for the major players. Walmart’s Alphabot robotic system uses autonomous carts to retrieve ambient, refrigerated, and frozen items for online orders and delivers them to a Walmart associate who checks, bags, and delivers the final order. Kroger has also built automated grocery fulfillment warehouses where hundreds of robots, powered by Ocado, zoom around at speeds of 10–15 feet per second and use robotic grippers to pick up and transport bins of grocery items.
The use of robots in warehouse fulfillment streamlines the order process, lowers dispense times, increases accuracy, and frees associates to focus on service and selling. At the same time, the bots handles the more mundane, repeatable tasks, saving an hour of labor for every 50 items ordered.
Robots in the Produce Aisle
Combatting the $1.75 trillion “ghost economy”—out of stocks, inaccurate price execution, and lack of product location optimization—is a challenge for retailers, with inventory mishaps accounting for more lost revenue than theft.
Enter Simbe Robotics’s AI robot—Tally. Tally uses over a dozen high-resolution cameras to capture shelves and analyze the store environment, seamlessly scanning and tracking products and processing real-time shelf data, including inventory position, price accuracy, and promotional execution. Tally roams store aisles up to three times a day and autonomously captures on-shelf data for 15,000–30,000 products an hour, freeing up as many as 100 hours per week for store teams to focus on customers. Where manual audits usually happen once a week with 65?curacy, Tally audits 3 times a day with an average scan time of 2 hours and over 97?curacy, resulting in a 20%–30% reduction of out-of-stock items in stores.
With more shoppers moving to online grocery shopping, Tally’s location data helps in-house employees and third-party shoppers find items and fulfill orders quickly. In addition, Tally’s real-time reporting provides online platforms with up-to-date, in-store stock availability, ensuring shoppers know if the items they want are available before visiting the store.
Following a pilot program with Simbe in 2017, Schnuck Markets Inc. recently announced a multi-year rollout of Tally to all 111 Schnucks locations, becoming the first grocer in the world to employ AI-powered inventory management technology at scale.
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For many retailers, the widespread implementation of AI robots in-store is hindered by cost, lack of skilled personnel, and the trustworthiness of the data. But changing consumer behaviors underscore the need for real-time inventory information. AI-driven analytics can anticipate demand, drive sales, offer personalized promotions, improve the consumer experience, and avoid waste. Grocers should heed the cry… Tallyho!
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