Walmart has cut ties with Bossa Nova Robotics, which made robots that scanned shelves for inventory, reports CNBC. The retailer has come up with other simple and cost-effective ways to manage the products on its shelves with its human workers rather than robots. A Walmart spokesperson noted that about 500 robots were in the company's more than 4,700 stores when the contract ended. The company is still pushing forward with other technology experimentation, and recently announced that four brick-and-mortar stores will serve as e-commerce laboratories.
Total Retail's Take: Even as many retailers venture into new, high-tech offerings, companies still need to be sure that they're getting a return on those technology investments. Walmart's move away from floor inventory robots may signal a slowdown in the race for in-store technology, as some retailers find their employees were better suited for the job. Furthermore, with e-commerce sales skyrocketing due to the coronavirus pandemic, there may be less need for expensive in-store technology systems with footfall trending downward.
However, Walmart recognizes that smart investments in technology are core to its future goals. For example, last week Walmart said it would turn four stores into e-commerce laboratories that test digital tools and different strategies that could speed up restocking shelves and fulfilling online orders. This is one of the many ways that Walmart is looking to turn its huge physical footprint into a more powerful advantage for e-commerce operations. It wouldn't be surprising to see more retailers investing in technology with an omnichannel focus, such as curbside pickup or shared cart capabilities, rather than tech solutions with only in-store features.
Kristina Stidham is the digital content director at Women in Retail Leadership Circle and sister brand Total Retail. She is passionate about digital media and handles video, podcast and virtual event production for both brands. You can often find her at WIRLC, TR, or industry events with her camera and podcasting equipment recording interviews with retailers.
Kristina holds a B.A. in Media Studies and Production from the Temple University Klein College of Media and Communication in Philadelphia. Go Owls! When she's not in the office, she loves to go on long walks, sing around the house, hangout with her two pet guinea pigs, and travel to new places.