STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 33

n

Q&A

Robot Radical
Talking about the future of retail robots

S

teven Keith Platt is wired to know robots. Platt, who is director and research fellow at the Platt Retail
Institute, has been enamored with all things robotic - if not all things that move - since, at age five,
his grandfather presented him with a battery-powered car that was big enough for Platt to sit in and drive
around the room.

Platt also serves as research director at the Retail
Analytics Council, an initiative between Northwestern
University and Platt Retail Institute which focuses
on the use of technology to impact the customer
experience.
On April 26, the Retail Analytics Council and Platt
Retail Institute will host the first Retail Robotics
and AI Conference at Northwestern University's San
Francisco campus. Platt, who has lectured on retail
and technology around the globe, discussed the fastchanging future of retail and robotics with STORES
contributing writer Bruce Horovitz.

ordering stuff that isn't selling. You are ordering stuff
that is selling. And you're able to find your merchandise
down to a single item in a single store.
Are robots going to take over retail?

"Take over" is an amorphous term. It's not one
I would use. I don't see a totally robotized store
for a while. In retail, I think of it more like car
manufacturing, where people and automation are
working side by side, complementing each other.
With robots, there's a labor cost savings, productivity
enhancement and accuracy enhancement. Robots
don't make mistakes like humans.

What exactly is a robot?

A robot has certain cognitive capabilities. It has
to have the ability to move around without crashing
into things - so there's navigation. It also performs
certain physical functions using robotics.
Who used robots first?

General Motors introduced them in 1961
in production lines focused on repetitive
manufacturing tasks.
Who used robots first in retail?

The first in retail were in Amazon warehouses.
Amazon has more than 100,000 in its warehouses.
What is the current state of robotics in retail?

The current iteration is twofold. There are service
robots that help direct customers to product and
provide them with relevant information, and there
are shelf audit robots.
What's the next major growth area for robotics?

Radio frequency identification. The technology has
been around forever, but retailers are now starting
to adopt it in a major way. Macy's recently did a
15-month test. Some 80 percent of its inventory was
RFID-tagged. The benefits are phenomenal. With
RFID, you can go from a once-a-year physical count of
inventory to monthly, daily or even hourly. The benefits
of inventory accuracy are huge. That way you're not
STORES.ORG

Will retailers be able to replace all
their cashiers with robotics?

Frictionless checkout won't be about robot cashiers.
I could see robots roaming stores and helping to load
and pack groceries and assist with checkout, but
that's a while out. But a different form of frictionless
checkout is coming quickly, where the customer
simply waves a wand to scan
their merchandise.
Will the Amazon Go store
set a retail trend?

The way they have deployed
the technology is not scalable.
There are better ways to achieve
the same thing. Amazon can't
scale that technology. It's very
expensive the way they're doing
it. The technology requires a
massive number of cameras
and a ton of object recognition.
There is a massive amount
of data, so you need a lot of
computer power.
What do you prefer?

RFID is very inexpensive and
there's no need for cameras. We
also like facial pay. A customer
continued on page 37

STORES April 2018 33


http://www.STORES.ORG

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of STORES Magazine - April 2018

Editor’s Page
President’s Page
Retail Politics
NRF News
TRENDS
C2W
Retail People
A Taste for Success
Want It, Need It, Gotta Have It
SUPPLY CHAIN
TECHNOLOGY
FINANCE
Q&A
MERCHANDISING
BUSINESS OPERATIONS Lowe’s expands training program to help communities in need.
BUSINESS OPERATIONS Bloomin’ Brands uses data to save money and improve the customer experience.
BUSINESS OPERATIONS Grove Collaborative reduces delivery times and improves customer satisfaction.
STARTUP SPOTLIGHT IceCream Labs uses machine learning and visual intelligence to drive ecommerce.
THEFT
SECURITY
POV
Communities
End Cap
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - Intro
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - cover1
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - cover2
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 3
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 4
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 5
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - Editor’s Page
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - President’s Page
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - Retail Politics
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - NRF News
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - TRENDS
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 11
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 12
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 13
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 14
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - C2W
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - Retail People
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 17
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - A Taste for Success
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 19
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 20
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 21
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - Want It, Need It, Gotta Have It
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 23
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 24
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 25
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - SUPPLY CHAIN
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 27
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 28
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - TECHNOLOGY
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 30
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - FINANCE
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 32
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - Q&A
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - MERCHANDISING
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 35
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - BUSINESS OPERATIONS Lowe’s expands training program to help communities in need.
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 37
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - BUSINESS OPERATIONS Bloomin’ Brands uses data to save money and improve the customer experience.
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 39
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - BUSINESS OPERATIONS Grove Collaborative reduces delivery times and improves customer satisfaction.
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 41
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - STARTUP SPOTLIGHT IceCream Labs uses machine learning and visual intelligence to drive ecommerce.
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - THEFT
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 44
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 45
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - SECURITY
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 47
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - POV
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - Communities
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - End Cap
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - cover3
STORES Magazine - April 2018 - cover4
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