Sam’s Club’s fleet of autonomous inventory-scanning robots capture more than 22 million pictures daily, resulting in automation of around 35% of each store’s inventory-related tasks.
The retail industry is undergoing a significant transformation and with the battle raging to engender customer loyalty, advanced technology is playing a fast-growing role in enhancing efficiency and improving shopping experiences.
One example of this is the use of in-store robot-collected inventory data and state-of-the-art apps, which provide store insights to associates, enabling them to quickly take action to address issues that could impact a customer’s experience. These issues include an item being out of stock, not being able to find an item because it’s in the wrong location, or discovering the price shown at the shelf does not match what is showing on the register. It has been estimated that lost revenue due to missed sales from out-of-stock items amounted to $82 billion in the United States in 2021 alone, according to NielsenIQ, while lost sales worldwide due to planogram compliance issues and price discrepancies at the shelf lose retailers $156.9 billion and $90 billion, respectively, according to the IHL Group.
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If retailers are able to ensure that their shoppers are able to buy what they want, where and when they want it, they are in a better position to not only secure return business from their customers, but also to increase profitability. Research from the PYMNTS “Decoding Customer Affinity” study, which drew from a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers, noted that 51% of shoppers said ensuring that the grocery products they want are in stock and available to buy is key to their continued business. A 2021 NielsenIQ survey showed that when customers were confronted with empty shelves, retailers lost 46% of possible sales.
With this in mind, having the ability to collect inventory data with unparalleled accuracy and efficiency using robotics has major implications for the retail sector, enabling stores to optimize their inventory management and improve the all-important experience for customers.
Pioneering the Tech
Sam’s Club is one of the pioneers in using robot-powered inventory-scanning technology. Its Own Your Inventory app, developed for in store management, pulls data from AI-powered inventory scan towers that are mounted on autonomous cleaning robots and travel store aisles multiple times a day, collecting data and also scrubbing floors.
According to Sam’s Club President and CEO Kathryn McLay, Sam’s Club’s fleet of autonomous inventory-scanning robots capture more than 22 million pictures daily, resulting in automation of around 35% of each store’s inventory-related tasks. Via the app, inventory data for each club is delivered directly to in-store associates, giving them intelligence of the store’s stock levels, planogram compliance and price tag compliance, enabling them to quickly take action when needed.
The impact of a customer’s shopping experience goes beyond the physical store and extends to the online realm. Online shoppers expect a convenient, fast and seamless process whether they opt for delivery, in-store pickup or curbside pickup. To meet these expectations, chains can collaborate and use data from local stores to determine the most suitable location for fulfilling an online order. This approach not only improves customer satisfaction, but also enables stores to efficiently manage their inventory levels, minimizing both out-of-stock and overstock situations. On top of this, leveraging data on the locations of items within each store can expedite the picking process and reduce online order completion times. To achieve this, an essential requirement is access to more data, which can be most efficiently and effectively obtained through the use of inventory scanning robots.
As inventory scanning technology continues to evolve, it is likely that we will see more retailers adopting similar strategies to enhance their operations and meet the changing needs of their customers. The use of in-store robot-collected data and state-of-the-art apps is showing potential to revolutionize the way retailers manage their physical stores and online, and how much customers enjoy visiting them.