Retailers are increasingly seeking to improve operational efficiency through robots to carry out tasks such as micro-fulfillment operations, inventory management, cleaning, and customer assistance. Pressure to enter the e-commerce market, optimize efficiency, and increase sales drives demand for retail robots. Advancement in sensor technology and retail availability of advanced chips facilitates adoption of these technologies. The Covid-19 pandemic has further fueled adoption of retail robots as a solution for improving in-store sanitation and inventory management with minimal employee contact.
The majority of incumbents and disruptors in the retail robotics space provide offerings in inventory management. The micro-fulfillment segment is witnessing increased interest and several companies are entering the market through partnerships with retailers. Incumbents are likely to gain access to technology through acquisition and partnerships as well as development of in-house technology. The majority of disruptors develop proprietary technology in-house.
Most incumbents already operate as business-to-business robotic providers with acquisitions and partnerships used as the most common market entry strategies Most retail robotics industry incumbents develop technology in-house or partner with companies that provide related services to obtain and co-develop their technology. Most of these companies already operate as established robotic suppliers focusing on the business-to-business (B2B) market. There are also some retailers—such as Amazon and Ocado—who have developed their own technology, especially in the micro-fulfillment area, while also selling their technology to other retailers. Several incumbents such as FANUC Corporation and Vargo that were already developing robots in related areas such as warehouse robots have recognized the opportunity and entered the micro-fulfillment space.