Lowe’s is adding more robots to its staff roster.
The company plans to start using robots on the sales floors of multiple California stores this fall.
The big-box retailer will be introducing LoweBot, a NAVii autonomous retail service robot by Fellow Robots, at 11 Lowe’s stores throughout the San Francisco Bay area.
Lowe’s has tested robots in the past. In 2014, the company experimented with the OSHbot at an Orchard Supply Hardware store in San Jose, California. Lowe’s owns Orchard Supply, which is smaller-format store chain that has locations in California and Oregon.
For the next several months, LoweBot will help Lowe’s analyze how robots can help customers and employees, Lowe’s says.
“For nearly two years, we’ve studied how robots in our San Jose Orchard Supply Hardware store can help customers more effectively navigate the store to find products and assist employees with inventory scanning,” says Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs. “Now, we are taking those learnings and applying them to a focused group of Lowe’s stores to see how the technology supports a broader customer and employee base.”
Will LoweBot Improve the Shopping Experience?
While some people fear robots may reduce the number of jobs available to human workers, Nel tells Inc. magazine that LoweBot won’t do that.
“We designed this to be an assistant to the associate,” he says.
Since LoweBot will be able to help answer simple spoken or typed questions, it should free up employees to provide personalized service, according to Lowe’s. Plus, LoweBot will capture real-time data about store inventory. This will help detect patterns or gaps, which may influence the company’s business decisions, Lowe’s says.
“We designed the NAVii robot to make the shopping experience easier for consumers—simplifying the process or finding the product you’re looking for—while also managing the back-end and keeping shelf inventory up-to-date for the retailer,” says Marco Mascorro, CEO of Fellow Robots. “Leaving the data and simple recommendations to NAVii allows Lowe’s employees to devote their attention to the Lowe’s customer to provide them with thoughtful advice and personalized service.”