Once new technology has proven itself to thrive after being trialed in a small number of stores, it’s time to roll it out across the whole portfolio. While taking the next step is exciting, it’s important that suppliers and retailers establish clear KPIs to maximize the investment, explains Red McKay, European Managing Director and VP of Global Sales of Bossa Nova Robotics.
In the highly competitive grocery sector, retailers have long relied on technology to improve operational efficiency, cut unnecessary costs and waste, and deliver excellence in customer experiences.
Anyone who has been involved in implementing new systems will know it doesn’t happen overnight, but follows months, or sometimes years, of testing. Once decision makers at retailers understand the huge potential benefits of introducing new technology, they first agree to a trial period in a handful of stores, to gauge usability, staff co-operation and of course, results.
The purpose of a trial is not only to find out whether the technology ‘works,’ but to see how it performs against a defined set of KPIs, typically across 5-10 stores. It is also an opportunity to make improvements and understand potential challenges before investing further and undertaking a wider rollout.
It is a journey that Bossa Nova has already undertaken with retailers in the U.S. to launch our fully autonomous, retail service robots in stores across the country. In a nutshell, Bossa Nova robots autonomously travel supermarket aisles, capturing high resolution images and other identifiers of a product in real-time, which are analyzed primarily to identify out of stocks. Store managers receive this information within 15 minutes so they can take immediate actions, maximizing sales opportunities and reducing waste.
The combination of cutting-edge robotics, computer vision, and artificial intelligence technology is undoubtedly taking retailers into unchartered territory. Part of the process is to ensure retailers are utilizing this wealth of comprehensive, real-time and actionable data.
The information gathered by the robots can be supplied to both retailers and brands. From the perspective of private brand suppliers, they would be able to see how accurately the display is, how well those products are performing and what steps could help improve sales performance of individual items and entire brand lines.
With the data collected from the robots, retailers are able to report back to suppliers, recommending any changes to packaging and branding which might improve displays. Data regarding stock levels and how well certain products are performing can also be supplied, so manufacturers can plan more strategically for changes in demand, as well as seasonal trends.
At an operational level, it’s also important for any new technology to work as well in a store environment as it does in a lab setting. When scaling up, at Bossa Nova we ensure that we account for deviations within individual stores, such as WiFi, floor material, layout and lighting and other environmental factors.
The tech can enable retailers to make smarter decisions, and it can also bring unknown operational inefficiencies to light. Remaining focused on the initial goals of the technology rollout is vital, as opposed to spreading resources too thinly and getting ‘caught up’ too early with what the technology can do. It’s our job to keep communication channels clear and open, ensuring the project remains on track and focused.
There is no question that scaling up requires strong communication between all stakeholders, including head office, store teams and external technology partners. Helping teams to interpret the data and individual store managers to implement the technology is crucial.
Our AI-powered robots and data solutions have captured the imagination of U.S. retailers, consumers and the press alike, but the lessons we learned during testing can be applied to any new system. By setting KPIs, understanding the capabilities and limitations, and communicating the challenges to all parties, the commercial returns can be enormous. As a retailer, to ensure you get the most out of the technology, this process should be seen as a journey with the tech partner.
For more details on Bossa Nova Robotics, visit www.bossanova.com