- Food Lion has deployed Marty, an in-store robot helper, at a store in La Follette, Tennesse. Marty already exists at four Giant/Martin’s stores in Pennsylvania, and the company plans to roll out the robots to all 171 Giant/Martin’s stores by the end of this year, according to The Produce News.
- Marty uses artificial intelligence and laser imaging technology to scan shelves to identify out-of-stock products and check pricing to ensure consistency. Marty also sweeps the store looking for hazards and alerts employees and customers.
- In the U.S., grocery aisle robot helpers can be traced back to Tally, launched by San Francisco-based startup Simbe Robotics in 2015. This technology was developed to focus on shelf auditing and analytics, specifically to inform stores when products are out of stock or misplaced and therefore remedy revenue losses by helping consumers find products, according to Inc.
While a relatively new advancement, grocery stores are testing the value of robots, especially in helping identify out-of-stock products during peak shopping hours, which when left unresolved can lead to frustration, abandonment and lost revenues.
As these artificial intelligence-based grocery robots help retailers maintain a real-time pulse on inventory, employees are then able to focus their priorities on duties that require a more human touch like customer service.
Brands such as Walmart, Schnucks, Target and Ahold USA have deployed similar robot technology to help with mundane tasks such as restocking. Walmart officials told Reuters that robots are 50% more productive than humans.
Companies deploying robot technology have noted, however, that it is not intended to replace human workers, but rather complement the work they’re doing and boost customer experience in the process. A similar idea, smart shelves, has rolled out in supermarkets in Ohio, and Powershelf CEO John White told Winsight Grocery Business that tests have yielded a 50% reduction of out-of-stocks.
Marty, with his large, friendly eyes and nametag, has improved customer experience at Food Lion, alerting customers to hazards and becoming a selfie favorite on social media. His presence brings in more people too, La Follette store manager Cindy McCulloch told The Produce News. “Many of our customers come by the store with friends and family just to ‘meet’ our newest associate."
If these recent deployments continue to boost efficiency, the technology will expand, and robots roaming grocery aisles will become more commonplace, keeping shelves fully stocked, aisles cleared and customer service high.