Walmart To Use Drones In Stores To Provide Better Customer Service


Walmart To Use Drones In Stores To Provide Better Customer Service

Shep Hyken, CONTRIBUTOR (Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.)

Photographer: Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg 

You walk into your local Walmart. There may be someone to greet you at the door, yet as you make your way down the aisle, you realize you need help. Within moments a drone flies down from above and hovers in front of you, then leads you to the item you’re trying to find.

Is this real, or is this science fiction?

Yes, it’s real! Walmart has filed a patent for drones to help shoppers in its stores. The way it works is simple. You have your shopping list on a mobile device, such as your mobile phone or a tablet that’s provided by the store. The mobile device communicates with the drone, and it flies over to help you find what you need. The patent application states the following: “If, for example, the user has requested navigation assistance to an item selected from a virtual shopping list on the mobile electronic device, the computing device can control the aerial drone to provide navigation assistance to guide the user to the location of the selected item.”

Drones are the next generation of retail robots and automation interacting with customers to improve their in-store experience. Last year, Lowe’s made the news when it introduced the Lowebot, which helps customers navigate throughout its large stores.

And, Walmart isn’t the only one filing patents for drones that interact with customers. Amazon has filed a patent for a delivery drone that reacts to voice commands and gestures, such as waving arms.

Whether or not these drones or the Lowebot become mainstream is yet to be seen. However, these brands need to push the technology envelope to find ways to better serve their customers, and it appears that robots and drones are part of that new technology.

Is this a good thing? Can robots and drones give the same level of support and service as a person? Perhaps, at some level, a very basic level, technology can enhance the customer’s experience. But that, at least in this author’s opinion is where it stops – at least for today.