Up to this point, when we’ve covered floor robots in grocery stores, the news has usually been about autonomous shelf scanners and floor cleaners. But as a recently released video from Pudu Robotics shows, we could soon be seeing robots that act as mobile advertising and promotional displays roaming around grocery aisles.
Amy Zhou, a Business Development Manager at Pudu Robotics, posted a video on Linkedin this week showing her company’s robots being put to work in various grocery stores around the world. The work shown in the video isn’t terribly exciting, as its mainly a lone robot carrying racks of food items that are on sale. But the move is another example of the mobile commerce trend that I predicted will have a breakout year in 2021.
Pudu’s move into grocery is reminiscent of Cheetah Mobile’s FANBOT, though FANBOT is a little more complex. Where Pudu’s robot just roams around carrying items that you then must purchase at the stores checkout, the FANBOT actually carries an inventory of different items and carries out the transaction to purchase them on the spot.
The idea is bringing commerce to where you are, rather than having you seek it out.
Pudu’s type of robotic mobile advertising could be appealing to grocery retailers. Having a mobile robot or two would give retailers another vehicle (literally) on which they could charge for placement/advertising. As a bonus, multiple, different promotions could be run in a single day. Heck, you could combine the dynamism of a Cooler Screen LED panel with the Pudu robot and have a big, bright, shiny commercial going up and down the aisles.
These types of promo robots might also find more acceptance within grocery stores themselves. Walmart ended its use of Bossa Nova’s shelf-scanning robots this year reportedly in part over concerns with how customers were reacting to the robots. There’s a difference between seeing a six-foot tall robot scanning a shelf and spotting a tray of chocolate bars headed in your direction.
Additionally, these type of self-wandering promo robots wouldn’t be taking a current job (like inventory management) away from a human, but rather adding a new one.
Plus — and this could be the biggest reason we’ll see more of Pudu’s robots in stores — at least one model is has cat-like features and makes a cute face when you pet it.