Millennials to Robots: Don’t Displace the Humans

The noise about an encroaching takeover by retail robots be damned. Turns out consumers are delighted to conduct their shopping in the company of flesh-and-blood sales staff, as old-fashioned a concept as that might be. Or at least the millennial quotient is.

Sixty-six percent of millennials find store employees “extremely important” to their shopping experience, according to a study by ChargeItSpot, an American provider of cellphone charging stations for major retailers. In a counterintuitive showing, it turns out it’s the boomers who are the most irritated by hovering retail humanity: 22% of them find store associates “extremely unimportant.”

Overall, says the research, shoppers aren’t too thrilled with the idea of rude mechanicals cluttering up their shopping experience. Forty-three percent of the 600 shoppers the survey polled said they’d be displeased enough by the appearance of working robots at a store that they’d stop shopping at the place.

It’s a warning knell to the likes of Amazon, which is already experimenting with cashier-less checkouts at its Amazon Go location. “While this may seem like a perk for some,” Douglas Baldasare, CEO and founder of ChargeItSpot, said in the report, “it could turn shoppers away from stores.”

And it’s awfully curious that the folks it most risks alienating hail from the youngest and most technologically sophisticated segment of the consumer base.

Still, says the research, millennials are cool with whatever technology can do to make their shopping experience easier, including innovations like robot shelf scanners and robotic fulfilment efforts in the back rooms. As long as humans continue to be on the premises and available to help shoppers at the retail level, the research concludes, shoppers are good with the technological progress unfolding in their midst.

CBMS Robots in retail