Retail AI & Robotics: Is the USA leading the way?

Darryl Adie
Managing Director

New advancements in technology have always sparked fear in humanity. Fear of losing purpose, fear about being overtaken by intelligent machines. It’s not new.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) estimates that almost a third of the UK’s 3m shop jobs will disappear by 2025. Whether or not that proves to be true, the UK seems to be trailing behind the USA when it comes to implementing technologies in-store.

Here are four retailers to watch:


Robot shop assistants in-store (pilot debut in 2014 resulted in planned rollout to 11 stores this year). Also, Lowes utilises its ‘Holoroom’ app plus Oculus Rift to help customers visualise home improvement projects while in-store.


Smart shelves – currently testing in 14 locations. Shelves light up products of interest to a customer and can be connected to personal preferences and/or browsing history online. The scope of these shelves could be vast, with testing and improvements. Another idea in development is to ‘call out’ products on customers’ mobile shopping lists as they pass by items on shelves.

Neiman Marcus

Smart Mirrors (or a touch screen and camera) is trialling currently on beauty counters in-store. The mirror ‘knows’ what products customers try on and can email them tutorials. Customers can share videos with friends and the mirror has built-in filters, so the video is insta-ready. Next, Neiman Marcus is rolling out 360 degree view smart mirrors in fitting rooms which take video of customers and allow customers to view looks side by side.


Smart baskets. Panasonic is testing a smart shopping basket system that replaces cashiers. The system detects items in the basket, calculates the bill and automatically bags the merchandise. This is currently on trial in Japan, but the company plans to roll it out internationally.

There will always be parts of jobs that can be automated further and further, but robotics will never replace good old fashioned customer service – the human kind. Don’t lose sight of that when planning for in-store technology investment.

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