The impact drones are having on different fields of work and various industries is very well-documented. Construction, architecture, agriculture, photography, and transportation are among some of the sectors that are being heavily influenced by drone technology. Having said that, drones are continuing to seep in the retail industry, and one move Walmart just made will bolster their presence.
The retail giant recently filed a patent to have drones help shoppers in its stores. Their role and exactly how they’ll work is fairly simple. According to an excerpt from the patent application, “If for example, the user has requested navigation assistance to an item selected from a virtual shopping list on their mobile electronic device, the computing device can control the aerial drone to provide navigation assistance to guide the user to the location of the selected item.” When a shopper enters a store, they’ll set up their shopping list on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet, which will communicate with a drone on standby. The craft will then fly through the store’s aisles to help the shopper find whatever items are on their list.
Interactions like the one described above are reasons why drones will be part of the next retail robot and automation generation that interact with customers to improve their shopping experience. However, Walmart isn’t the only company beginning to incorporate robotic shopping assistance in their stores, and aren’t even the first. Last year, Lowe’s introduced the “Lowebot,” which helps shoppers navigate through its large stores, while Amazon has filed a delivery drone patent that can react to voice commands and bodily gestures (like waving arms).
It remains to be seen whether these drones or devices like the “Lowebot” will become ubiquitous in the retail industry. Companies working with this technology must invest some serious efforts to find ways at improving their customers’ in-store experience with these devices at the forefront. In addition to other uncertainties, it hasn’t been determined how many drones would be in any one store, or how their integration will affect Walmart’s human workers.
Although technology has its benefits and set of unique capabilities, human-to-human interaction still has an important place in retail. A 2018 CTX Trends Report determined that human interaction is pivotal to a customer’s shopping experience. Sixty-Five percent of consumers surveyed reported that staff interaction strongly influences their decision to buy more from a brand, showing how human workers still possess some abilities that drones can’t (yet) replicate.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)