Can Robots Save Brick-And-Mortar Retail Stores?

With the trend of consumers increasingly heading to online stores to get their shopping done, brick-and-mortar retailers aren’t going down without a fight. They’re bringing in disruptive technology like robots to help entice shoppers to head out of the safe confines of their homes and back into physical shopping venues.

Per a TechRepublic report, the “National Retail Federation’s 2020 Big Show (NRF 2020) in New York was jam packed full of robots, frictionless store mock-ups, and audacious displays of the latest technology now available to retailers. “

The use of robots and digital signage are just a couple of ways retailers are re-inventing their physical brick-and-mortar stores.

“It’s not a retail apocalypse. It’s a retail renaissance,” said Lori Mitchell-Keller, executive vice president and global general manager of consumer industries at SAP.

Rather than view their physical locations as a disadvantage versus the ease of use online shopping offers, brick-and-mortar stores are using disruptive technology to play to their strengths—one of them being the customer experience.

“Brick-and-mortar stores have this unique capability to have a specific advantage against online retailers. So despite the trend where everything was going online, it did not mean online at the expense of brick-and-mortar. There is a balance between the two. Those companies that have a great online experience and capability combined with a brick-and-mortar store are in the best place in terms of their ability to be profitable,” Mitchell-Keller said during an interview at NRF 2020. “There is an experience that you cannot get online. This whole idea of customer experience and experience management is definitely the best battleground for the guys that can’t compete in delivery. Even for the ones that can compete on delivery, like the Walmarts and Targets, they are using their brick-and-mortar stores to offer an experience that you can’t get online. We thought five years ago that brick-and-mortar was dead and it’s absolutely not dead. It’s actually an asset.”

While brick-and-mortar stores are going through this reinvention, it doesn’t mean that having an online presence should be dismissed. Successful stores will be the ones that can leverage the advantages of both online as well as brick-and-mortar retail.

“The brick-and-mortar stores that are using their stores as fulfillment centers have a much lower cost of delivery because they’re typically within a few miles of customers. If they have a great online capability and good store fulfillment, they’re able to get to customers faster than the aggregators,” Mitchell-Keller said. “It’s better to have both.”

For more market trends, visit ETF Trends.