27 October 2022

Tech Perspective #41: Revolutionary Robots Enter Retail


Last week, an unexpected new Internet sensation was born. With its protruding cat ears and adorable eyes, it has collectively won hearts of Interner users. The memes (those regular, as well as NSFW) has flooded popular portals and after that, nothing was the same. And it’s all thanks to Kerfuś. 

The BellaBot, affectionately named Kerfuś, appeared in two Carrefour stores in Warsaw. Although it has been welcoming customers since the end of September, it was not until the middle of October that it began to be talked about more loudly. And what does Kerfuś do? As Sylwester Mroczek, manager of the Format Development and Commercial Concepts Department at Carrefour Polska, explained, “The new interactive eRobots Kerfuś is another example of innovations in Polish trade that we have introduced to broaden the purchasing experience of consumers. Through the interaction of eRobots with buyers, we build positive associations between customers and the promoted brands, and we realistically support sales, because the promoted products are at hand”. 

For a moment, Kerfuś became a true viral star and sparked the discussion about robotics in retail. However, Kerfuś is merely a small example of a great robotic revolution in retail.  

Retail Robotics Today 

Even though it’s not so widely discussed, robotics are truly changing the face of retail. And there are numbers to prove it. According to Boston Consulting Group, the global robotics market is expected to reach USD 87 Billion by 2025. And that’s not all! It is also estimated that more than half of the influence will be focused on the retail market. And that’s not surprising at all, as retail has always been known for being eager to adopt and use advanced technology. 

Of course, automation is nothing new to this industry and has been widely used to drive productivity and effectiveness in retail supply chains. However, the time has come to realise that automation doesn’t have to be limited to warehouses and supply chains – it should be treated holistically. 

And there’s a demand for that. According to a recent survey from RetailWire, approximately 25% of retailers already have robotics solutions up and running and almost half say they “will be involved” with robotics during the next 18 months. 

Not Only Kerfuś 

As robots are increasingly moving from warehouses to shops, the stakes are really high. Of course, sensor-based robots that can bring customers what they are looking for are cool but it’s the AI powered ones that can truly transform customer interactions. AI robots can offer personalised product recommendations and successfully respond to clients’ inquiries. How exactly they do that? They combine data such as customer’s age, their purchase histories, and location and analyse it to provide them with the best possible advice. 

Take as an example Pepper. Pepper is a humanoid robot driven by AI that uses the combination of AI and robotics to increase customer engagement and improve experience. The robot can chat with customers, successfully answer their questions and give directions. And that’s not all. Its manufacturer, SoftBank Robotics, claims that Pepper can also recognise human emotions. It can also analyse the tone of a customer’s voice to assess whether they’re happy or sad. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? 

All that made Pepper one the most successful implementation of robotics in the “real-life” retail industry. At a pilot conducted for Pepper at B8ta in California, U.S., the tech retail store witnessed a 70 percent rise in footfalls

Robotic Revolution 

Even though retail robots are still a novelty, their increasing popularity and adoption will soon make them omnipresent. For customers, the presence of helpful robots in stores means easy, personalised shopping experiences. For retailers the rise of retail robots equals improved productivity, lower costs, improved customer experiences and increased profits.  

Robotics,combined with analytics, AI and machine-learning, has the potential to drive revolution across the retail value chain. And it will happen sooner than you expect 

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Marcin Bartoszuk
Chief Operating Officer

With Microsoft technologies related since 2005. He graduated from the Computer Science Faculty of the Bialystok University of Technology where he was the leader of the .NET Group and the Microsoft Student Partner. Four times finalist of the national stage of the Imagine Cup competition, and later the mentor and the jury member of the contest. Co-founder of the Bialystok .NET Group. He lectured .NET development at the Bialystok University of Technology. Microsoft MVP in the Client Application Development category in 2008-2010, when he actively participated in the IT community. Constant new technology enthusiast and IT consultant.