Amazon might have drones, but Lowe’s has robots. The retailer announced plans to bring service robots to 11 California stores over the next seven months – the latest tech weapon in brick-and-mortar’s battle to stay relevant against e-commerce.
Lowe’s ranks Gifted in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Big Box, standing out for its investments in augmented and virtual reality. Like the retailer’s Virtual Room Designer, the robots function like more efficient humans: asking customers if they need help finding anything and guiding them to the correct location.
Their ability to scan and remember inventory details may be the robots’ most important quality, as it directly replicates the convenience of e-commerce. Best Buy tested a similar concept last year, and Target has also experimented with using robots to track inventory. All of these seek to diminish the sheer hassle of brick-and-mortar shopping, which can be a major deterrent for consumers: why spend time wandering the aisles of Lowe’s in search of a product when digital makes it easy to find that same product in seconds? By making physical stores function more like a website search box, Lowe’s could encourage more consumers to pay them a visit.