Zara Is the Latest Retailer to Invest in Robots for In-Store Services

Zara is going high-tech.

The fast-fashion behemoth has begun to automate the customer pickup process, investing in a strategy that introduces robots to its “click and collect” service. With a third of its online sales around the world picked up in stores — including the 85 locations in the United States — the Inditex brand has encountered slowdowns through employees’ manual searching and dispatching of orders.

The solution: an overhaul of Zara’s BOPIS (or buy online, pick up in store) service to make the shopping experience more convenient — and futuristic — for online customers.

Shoppers who arrive at the retailer’s pickup stations will be prompted to scan or enter a code that activates an in-store warehouse robot to search for the requested package, which it then delivers to a drop box. Testing has already begun at a Spain store near its headquarters in December.

Zara also recently launched a pop-up shop in the Westfield Stratford shopping center in London focused on online sales, returns and exchanges, where associates carry mobile devices to assist customers. Further zeroing in on its digital offerings, the retailer has installed a product recommendation system in mirrors, where RFID technology allows shoppers to scan items that are then styled with coordinating garments and accessories.

It’s not the first time a retailer has capitalized on the use of robots to improve the in-store shopping experience. Two years ago, Walmart built a self-service kiosk — part of a project called Pickup Towers — in an Arkansas store, where it has since rolled out to more than a dozen locations. (Last month, it opened the automated pickup station at a store in Corpus Christi, Texas.) Lowe’s has also expanded its customer service-enabled robot, LoweBot, to answer customer questions, find products and manage inventory.

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