Brands are increasingly using robots to automate communication with their consumers, engage their consumers in new ways and improve overall customer service.
Retailer Lowe’s, for example, unveiled the OSHbot robot last year to interact with consumers in-store. With its 3D scanner, the robot can help shoppers locate items, even if they don’t know what they’re called. That was all thanks to a partnership between the retailer’s innovation lab and a startup called Fellow Robots.
In Silicon Valley, robots from the startup Savioke function as hotel butlers, bringing guests items they request from the front desk. Last August, Savioke started a six-month pilot program with Starwood Hotels and Resorts to bring its SaviOne service bots to Starwood’s Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, California. After a successful program, these bots are headed to Starwood hotels nationwide.
Hotel guests mostly had a positive response to the robots, Savioke CEO Steve Cousins told Popular Science. After the bots completed about 2,000 deliveries, 95% of guests gave the bots bots five stars for job performance.
As weird as it may seem now, you should expect to see more robots publicly interacting with consumers. Over 25.4 million mobile robots (like Savioke’s) are expected to ship globally by 2020, a 200% increase from the estimated 8 million this year, according to global growth consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.
Unilever, which has been on the forefront of innovation through its Unilever Foundry program, is also interested in mobile robots. It envisions using them for facial coding and instant focus groups.
“Introducing Nao, my future SVP CMI @Unilever on stage @The_ARF. @ssthanunathan your days are numbered!!,” Unilever CMO Keith Weed jokingly tweeted earlier this month at an Advertising Research Foundation conference.
That day at the conference, Weed brought a programmable Nao humanoid robot out on stage. He noted how it can do facial coding to gauge people’s reactions, which in turn helps the robot carry on a conversation.
“AI and robots will become not just an important new tool, but an important new audience,” futurist and brand marketer Jason Alan Snyder wrote in MediaPost. “AI will increasingly be both targets and surrogates for messaging. And just as your email spam filter has done, they will continue to be vigilant consumer guardians. So, agencies must learn to persuade machines.”