NCR has separated into two separate and distinct companies: NCR VOYIX and NCR Atleos.
This website is temporarily being used by and for NCR VOYIX alone, and not by or for NCR Atleos. Click here to go to the NCR Atleos website.

How some retailers are using robots to enable contactless commerce this peak season

Published November 20, 2020

It’s a different holiday season during the pandemic. This year, when consumers are shopping, robots may be roaming the aisles digitally scanning shelves to be sure they’re well stocked. If needed, they’ll send the information to store operators to restock the shelves—and it’s just one way that robotics could be a part of the busy holiday shopping season.

Robots to the rescue?

Restaurants, banks and retail stores have made big changes because of the pandemic, including adhering to the call for contactless interactions—and it’s in times like this when innovations are born—or at least fueled. And during this hectic and unpredictable holiday season, innovation can provide the flexibility business owners—especially retailers—need during a time that’s always crucial for them. The good news is that robots can help.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) predicts global spending on robots will grow to $67 billion by 2025—and Mark Cuban, businessman and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, says he believes robotics will create the world’s first trillionaire. In the meantime, robots and robotics process automation are set to make the holiday season for retail, restaurants and banks—and the customers who use them—merrier.

Robots in retail: Scanning shelves, detecting spills and automating warehouses

Even before the pandemic, retailers were turning to robots to increase production and reduce costs. Now they’re providing a much-needed answer to some of the challenges COVID-19 brought with it—from grocery stores receiving re-stocking support to retailers like Walmart quickly and accurately filling online orders.

Here are some examples:

As reported by Robotics Business Review, since 2017, Schnucks, a supermarket chain located in St. Louis has been using Tally, a tall, thin, white robot that scans grocery shelves for out-of-stock items and for other problems, including determining if items have been misplaced. Tally then sends the information it collects to store employees who can then fix any problems and restock shelves. And Tally is just one of many robots being used in the retail space.

Other retailers are using robots like Marty to identify and alert customers and employees to spills and other hazards—Marty can speak both English and Spanish. For Stop & Shop, with 325 locations in the U.S., Marty makes a real difference alerting people to an average of 40 spills a day in each location, that’s potentially 13,000 a day.

Robots in restaurants: Making it possible for a kitchen to cook without any human hands

For restaurants, particularly quick service restaurants, using robotics to handle tedious and repetitive tasks has been trending for a while. They can save restaurants money and allow them to provide food at lower costs, make preparation faster and more precise while giving their guests an exciting, new experience (and one that’s more personalized).

Here are some examples:

Located in Boston, the quick service restaurant Spyce uses a fully robotic kitchen to prepare nearly everything their customers order. They do have a few staff members who prepare the ingredients in another location, but the robot kitchen handles all of the cooking. Then two of their staff members handle the customer service side of things and are tasked with placing finishing touches on orders (if needed).

The burger joint Creator in San Francisco also uses robotics to handle nearly every prep of their burgers—from grinding the meat to dispensing the condiments with their staff only handling taking and delivering orders—and things like busing tables. 

In Redwood City, Calif., Chowbotics runs what they call Sally on a smaller scale, prepping salads in a kind of tech-fueled vending machine. Customers can browse Sally’s choices in “her” refrigerator to create their own salad. What’s nice about Sally is “she” can be used in places like hospitals where demand is 24/7 and speed is essential.

Robots in banks: Ripe for an automation takeover

For years, financial institutions have been moving towards robotics for many reasons. The largest is that much of what they do can be automated. As a result, financial institutions are seeing the following benefits: 

  • Reduction in errors
  • Increased efficiency
  • Less friction
  • More standardization of workflow
  • Increased cost savings
  • Better overall customer service

Consider Pepper, the famous robot teller. HSBC, located in England and the sixth-largest bank in the world, introduced Pepper in 2018, a robot teller that dances, takes selfies and tells jokes. Pepper is four feet tall and, when “she” says “How may I help you?” it’s in a high-pitched voice. And Pepper also assists customers with many of their banking needs—and when there’s a lull, like when a human has to assist the robot during a transaction, that’s when it goes into entertainment mode, such as dancing to techno beats.

Beyond Pepper, most of the financial industry robotics comes down to basic automation, using what’s called software robotics. This involves the use of software that replaces what used to be done manually, like settling trades and making allocation appropriations. Other robotic services include digital identity verification when taking on new customers, and other labor-intensive tasks.

Robots: Not just a kids’ holiday gift idea

This holiday season will be different for many people around the world. And for business owners, it’s a needed opportunity to recoup profit losses because of the pandemic. With robots helping companies keep their staff focused on their customers, owners can optimize the customer experience by working with managed services providers like NCR VOYIX. Those providers are consulting on everything from where to place robots, how often to use them or even how to use robotics to perform regular maintenance.

So, this holiday season, robotics can be a welcome disruptor of the banking, restaurant and retail industries, freeing up staff to spend more time with customers. And having a trusted partner to handle some of the redundant tasks can be a welcome change at a time when business owners need it most.

Need more information?