By Retail Doctor Group, in association with Ebeltoft Group

Retail is a dynamic industry that’s constantly evolving and reinventing itself to stay ahead of customer demands. From experiences to , streamline operations, and stay ahead of the competition. One transformative technology that has been making waves in the industry is robotics. From intelligent inventory management and efficient order fulfilment to interactive customer service, robots – and the assistance they bring to everyday tasks – are redefining the shopping experience and revolutionising the retail sector. 

Robotic Assistance refers to the use of robotics and automation technologies in retail settings for tasks like inventory management, restocking, and customer service, aiming to boost efficiency and cut labour costs. 

It’s expected that the Robotics market in Australia will reach a revenue that exceeds US$700 million by the end of 2024. Service Robotics will dominate this segment​​, pushing the AI Service Robotics market to reach over US$130 million, with an expected annual growth rate of almost 16% from 2024 to 2030​​. 


  • The Driving Forces Behind Retail Robotics
  • Best Use Cases for Retail Robotics
  • The Role of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data in Retail Robotics
  • Challenges and Strategies for Implementing Retail Robotics
  • Training and Upskilling for a Robotic Retail Workforce
  • Global Trends and the Future of Retail Robotics
  • Conclusion​

Robotic Assistance is one of 2024’s hottest trends, with unprecedented potential to address labour shortages, enhance worker productivity and safety, and improve the customer experience. Robot-assisted tasks like inventory tracking and customer assistance are faster and more efficient than manual processes.  

A case in point? Robot-assisted scanning has proven to be 15 times faster than manual scanning, and more accurate. Additionally, the integration of AI and IoT in robotics has revolutionised how retail businesses operate, offering new insights into customer behaviours and inventory management. 

The Driving Forces Behind Retail Robotics 

It’s crucial that retailers understand the driving forces behind this technological shift. With e-commerce giants like Amazon setting new standards for speed and convenience, brick-and-mortar retailers are under immense pressure to adapt. Robots offer a solution to meet these heightened customer expectations, while simultaneously addressing operational challenges such as labour shortages and rising costs. 

Australian retailers, known for their forward-thinking approach, have been quick to embrace robotic solutions, recognising the vast potential they hold for improving efficiency, reducing errors, and delivering exceptional customer service. However, the integration of robotics in the retail sector is not without its challenges, and businesses must navigate a complex landscape of implementation strategies, training requirements, and ethical considerations. 

Here, we explore the cutting-edge world of retail robotics, including best-use cases, relevant Australian case studies, and global trends. We’ll uncover the opportunities and challenges presented by this transformative technology, and examine the roles of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data in driving robotic innovation.  

RDG’s insights will equip you with the knowledge and insights necessary to make informed decisions for your retail business and harness the full potential of robotics. 

Best Use Cases for Retail Robotics 

One of the most prominent use cases for robotics in retail is inventory management and stocktaking. Traditional manual processes can be time-consuming, error-prone, and labour-intensive. Robotic solutions, on the other hand, offer unparalleled accuracy, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. 

Inventory Management and Stocktaking  

Robots equipped with advanced sensors, cameras, and machine learning algorithms can autonomously navigate store aisles, scan shelves and monitor stock levels in real-time. This data is then seamlessly integrated into inventory management systems, providing retailers with up-to-date information on product availability and enabling proactive replenishment strategies. 

Take Woolworths, for instance. One of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, Woolworths have embraced robotics to revolutionise its distribution operations. In 2018, the company unveiled its state-of-the-art automated distribution centre in Melbourne’s western suburbs, featuring a cutting-edge robotic system from German automation giant, Witron. 

This highly automated facility employs a fleet of robots that can retrieve and transport products at lightning-fast speeds, enabling Woolworths to process an astonishing 120,000 cases per day. The robots operate 24/7, significantly improving efficiency and reducing labour costs, while ensuring timely deliveries to Woolworths’ stores across the country. 

Order Fulfilment and Automated Warehousing  

As online shopping continues to surge, retailers are under immense pressure to streamline order fulfilment processes and minimise delivery times. Robotic solutions have proven instrumental in addressing these challenges, revolutionising warehouse operations and enabling efficient picking, packing, and shipping of orders. 

Automated warehouses employing fleets of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) have become increasingly common. These robots navigate complex warehouse layouts, retrieve items from shelves, and transport them to designated packing stations, significantly reducing the need for manual labour. Not only does this minimise errors, but also rising employment costs. 

Amazon’s robotics warehouses are a case in point. The e-commerce giant is a pioneer in the implementation of robotic technology in its warehouses, with a fleet of over 200,000 robots that are powered by advanced AI and machine learning algorithms. Amazon’s robotic fleet navigates through massive fulfilment centres seamlessly, efficiently retrieving and transporting products to human associates for packing and shipping. 

This cutting-edge robotic system has enabled Amazon to process an astonishing 1.6 million orders per day during peak periods, while significantly reducing labour costs and improving overall operational efficiency. If we are to judge the success of leveraging robotics, Amazon’s fleet has certainly set a new benchmark for the industry! This should help to inspire other retailers to explore similar solutions, though granted, it probably won’t be on the same scale for most. 

Interactive Customer Service and In-Store Assistance  

While robots excel in operational tasks, their potential extends far beyond backroom retail operations. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) have paved the way for robots that are more than capable of engaging and interacting with customers and providing personalised assistance. 

These robots can greet shoppers, answer queries, provide product information, and even guide customers to their desired aisles within the store. Thanks to advanced sensors and computer vision, these robots can also monitor foot traffic, identify potential bottlenecks, and alert staff to areas requiring attention on the shop floor (Clean up on aisle 7, please) or in inventory (Low shelf stock: Woolworths’ Baked Beans, aisle 4). 

Westfield Shopping Centre, one of Australia’s largest shopping centre operators, is at the forefront of the robotics trend, incorporating interactive robots into their customers’ retail experiences. In 2017, Westfield introduced Pepper robots, which were developed by SoftBank Robotics, in several of its 37 shopping centres located across the country. 

These humanoid robots are equipped with advanced AI capabilities, capable of engaging in natural conversations with shoppers, answering queries, providing directions, and even offering product recommendations. Westfield’s adoption of Pepper robots has been a resounding success, with shoppers embracing the novel and engaging customer service experience. 

 Robotic Delivery and Last-Mile Logistics  

As consumer demand for fast, efficient, and convenient delivery of their orders continues to rise, retailers need to find innovative solutions that optimise their last-mile logistics. Robotic delivery systems offer a promising solution, enabling efficient and cost-effective transportation of goods directly to customers’ doorsteps. 

Autonomous ground vehicles (AGVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – more commonly known as drones – are capable of navigating complex urban environments, bypassing traffic congestion, and delivering packages with remarkable precision and speed. 

Wing Aviation Pty Ltd in Australia is a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google’s parent company). Wing’s drone delivery service is one of two approved drone delivery services in Australia, and can deliver a wide range of products, from fresh food and groceries to household items and medical supplies, directly to customers with a delivery address that’s within a 10 km radius of Gungahlin and Belconnen, and Queensland’s Logan and Ormeau. 

Though still experimental in nature and extremely competitive (the other approved drone delivery service is Swoop Aero), Wing’s drone delivery service has been a resounding success, with thousands of deliveries made to date. Customers using the service have embraced the convenience and speed of Wing’s innovative solution, while retailers have benefited from reduced delivery costs and improved customer satisfaction. 

This has led to a higher loyalty and retention rate. 

The Role of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data in Retail Robotics 

The future of retail is not just about selling products; it’s about crafting immersive and personalised experiences that delight customers and drive lasting loyalty. Robotics, AI, and big data analytics hold the keys to unlocking this future.  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data play crucial roles in driving the adoption and effectiveness of robotic solutions in the retail sector. These advanced technologies are the backbone of many robotic systems, enabling them to perform complex tasks with precision and efficiency. 

AI and machine learning algorithms are integral to the navigation, perception, and decision-making capabilities of robots. For instance, computer vision and object recognition algorithms allow robots to identify and locate products on shelves, while natural language processing enables interactive robots to understand and respond to customer queries accurately. 

Moreover, AI and machine learning algorithms are essential for analysing the vast amounts of data generated by robotic systems. This data, which includes information on inventory levels, customer behaviour, and operational processes provides retailers with valuable insights, while optimising various aspects of the retail business. 

Big data analytics plays a pivotal role in this process, enabling retailers to identify patterns, trends, and correlations within the data. This information can then be used to make data-driven decisions, such as optimising inventory management, improving product placement, and enhancing customer experiences. 

For example, data from interactive robots can provide insights into customer preferences, frequently asked questions, and areas of the store that generate the most foot traffic. This information can then be used to tailor personalised product offerings, inform staff training requirements, and upgrade or enhance store layouts to better meet customer needs. 

Similarly, data from warehouse and inventory management robots can be analysed to identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement in supply chain operations. By leveraging predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms, retailers can forecast demand, optimise inventory levels, and streamline logistics processes, ultimately reducing costs and further improving customer satisfaction. 

As these technologies continue to advance, we can expect to see even more innovative applications of robotics in the retail sector, such as virtual assistants powered by AI, augmented reality-enabled product demonstrations, and predictive maintenance of robotic systems using machine learning algorithms. 

Challenges and Strategies for Implementing Retail Robotics 

While the potential benefits of retail robotics are undeniable, businesses must navigate a complex landscape of challenges and develop effective strategies to ensure successful implementation. 

Initial Investment and Cost Considerations  

One of the primary barriers to adopting retail robotics is the significant upfront investment required. Robotic systems, along with the necessary supporting infrastructure and software, can be costly. This is a deterrent for some, particularly those smaller retailers who have limited capital resources. 

To mitigate this challenge, businesses should conduct thorough cost-benefit analyses and explore financing options, such as leasing or using robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) models. Additionally, leveraging government incentives and grants aimed at promoting innovation and automation can help offset initial costs. 

It must however be remembered that the use of robotics is an innovative strategy that not only streamlines operations, but eliminates human error and cost wastage, too. Implementing a robotic workforce is a long-term strategy, not a quick-fix to lower employee costs. 

Integration with Existing Systems and Processes  

Integrating robotic solutions seamlessly into existing retail systems and processes can be a daunting task. Retailers must ensure that their robotic systems can effectively communicate and share data with inventory management software, point-of-sale systems, customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, and other critical components of their operations. 

To address this challenge, businesses should adopt a comprehensive approach that involves collaboration between robotics providers, IT teams, data analysts, and operational staff. Thorough testing and pilot programs can help identify potential compatibility issues and facilitate seamless integration before full-scale implementation. 

Data Management and Cybersecurity  

The integration of robotics and AI systems with big data analytics presents unique challenges in terms of data management and cybersecurity. Retailers must ensure that the vast amounts of data generated by robotic systems are securely stored, processed, and analysed, while adhering to strict data privacy and protection regulations. 

Implementing robust data governance frameworks, employing advanced encryption techniques, and adopting best practices in cybersecurity are essential to mitigate the risks of data breaches and protect sensitive customer information. Additionally, retailers should invest in training programs to educate employees on data handling protocols and cybersecurity best practices. 

Employee Acceptance and Change Management  

It’s wholly understandable that the introduction of robotics in the retail sector can raise concerns among employees regarding job security and the potential displacement of human workers. They’ve had years of listening to propaganda and fearful stories about losing their jobs to a robot.  

Addressing these concerns and fostering a culture of acceptance and adaptability is crucial for successful implementation. At the end of the day however, it’s about the business’ ability to thrive in uncertain times, during economic downturns, or in the midst of another pandemic (where people are on lockdown).  

Effective change management strategies that include transparent communication, employee training programs, and upskilling initiatives can help alleviate fears and empower employees to embrace new technologies with new skills. By highlighting the complementary roles robots play in enhancing efficiency and productivity, retailers can cultivate a positive attitude toward robotic adoption. 

Of course, it helps a lot that customers are embracing the technological innovations that make their lives easier.  

Regulatory Compliance and Safety Considerations  

Regulatory compliance and human safety considerations are always a challenge when new technology is implemented. Retailers must understand that the deployment of retail robotics will have to comply with relevant regulations and safety standards. This includes adhering to guidelines regarding data privacy, cybersecurity, and the safe operation of robotic systems in public spaces. 

Retailers should work closely with regulatory bodies, industry associations, and robotics providers to ensure compliance, while also prioritising the safety of both customers and employees. By conducting thorough risk assessments, implementing robust security protocols, and providing comprehensive training on robotic safety procedures, retailers can manage the essential steps necessary to mitigate potential risks. 

Ethical Considerations and Public Perception  

The integration of robotics and its associated AI requirements in the retail sector also raises ethical concerns regarding privacy, accountability, and the potential impacts on employment and societal norms. Addressing these concerns and fostering public trust is crucial for widespread adoption and acceptance. 

Retailers should adopt transparent and ethical practices, such as implementing clear privacy policies, ensuring algorithmic fairness and non-discrimination, and prioritising human oversight and accountability. By proactively addressing these concerns and engaging in open dialogue with stakeholders, retailers can contribute to shaping responsible and inclusive robotic deployment practices. 

Training and Upskilling for a Robotic Retail Workforce 

As robotic solutions become increasingly prevalent in the retail sector, businesses must prioritise training and upskilling initiatives to ensure their workforce is equipped with the necessary skillset and knowledge to thrive in this new era. 

Technical Training and Robotic Programming  

While robotic and AI systems are designed to be user-friendly, retail employees will require specialised training in operating, programming, and maintaining these advanced technologies. This includes understanding robotic interfaces, programming languages, and troubleshooting techniques. 

Retailers should collaborate with robotics providers, vocational education institutions, and industry associations to develop comprehensive training programs tailored to their specific robotic and AI needs. This includes: 

  • hands-on training on both the shopfloor and at head offices. 
  • simulations and analyses of case studies. 
  • webinars and other interactive or online training academies. 
  • and industry-specific certifications. 

Partnering with a retail advisory and consultancy firm can also help ensure that employees are proficient in leveraging the full capabilities of robotic and AI systems. These firms usually offer multifaceted training strategies, such as in-person, webinar, and online training courses. 

Data Analysis and Interpretation  

With robots generating vast amounts of data through their sensors and analytics, retail employees must develop skills in data analysis and interpretation. This includes understanding how to extract insights from robotic data, identify patterns and trends, and use this information to drive strategic decision-making. 

And although this sounds like a job you might hand to an analyst, programmer, or IT person, it’s crucial that employees at every touchpoint along the way are also familiar with the technology, understand the analytics, can extract or interpret these trends, and are able to manage with basic troubleshooting. If the downward line of employees are not empowered to handle these day-to-day requirements, retailers run the risk of over-extending their specialists. 

Training programs should therefore focus on data literacy, including data visualisation techniques, statistical analysis, and the use of business intelligence tools. Additionally, upskilling initiatives should cover data-driven decision-making processes, enabling employees to translate data insights into actionable strategies for optimising operations and enhancing customer experiences. 

AI and Machine Learning Fundamentals  

As AI and machine learning algorithms play a crucial role in powering robotic systems, it’s essential for retail employees to have a basic understanding of these technologies. This knowledge will enable them to better comprehend the capabilities and limitations of robotic solutions, as well as contribute to the ongoing development and refinement of AI-driven systems. 

Training programs should cover the fundamental concepts of AI and machine learning, including supervised and unsupervised learning algorithms, neural networks, and natural language processing. Employees should also learn about the ethical considerations and potential biases associated with AI systems, ensuring responsible and inclusive deployment of these technologies. 

Soft Skills and Collaboration with Robotic Systems  

While robots excel in automation and efficiency, they lack the human touch and emotional intelligence that are essential in customer-facing roles. Retail employees must develop soft skills to complement and collaborate effectively with robotic systems. 

Training should emphasise interpersonal communication, empathy, problem-solving, and creative thinking. Employees should learn how to leverage robotic capabilities to enhance customer interactions, while retaining the human touch that builds trust and fosters lasting relationships. 

Continuous Learning and Adaptability  

The rapid pace of technological advancement in the retail sector necessitates a commitment to continuous learning and adaptability. As robotic systems evolve and new applications emerge, retail employees must be prepared to embrace lifelong learning and remain agile in their skill development. 

Retailers should foster a culture of learning by providing ongoing training opportunities, encouraging knowledge sharing, and supporting professional development initiatives. The value of partnering with a retail advisory firm cannot be stressed enough. This will help ensure that training programs remain current and are aligned with the latest trends and best practices in retail robotics. 

Global Trends and the Future of Retail Robotics 

While the adoption of retail robotics is gaining momentum across Australia, it’s important to recognise that this trend is part of a larger global movement toward automation and innovation in the retail sector. Leading retailers around the world have invested heavily in robotic solutions, driven by the potential for increased efficiency, cost savings, and enhanced customer experiences. 

In the United States, retail giants like Amazon, Walmart, and Target have been at the forefront of this revolution. While Amazon’s vast network of automated warehouses is inspiring, Walmart and Target have also recognised the need to adapt to changing consumer preferences and have embraced robotics for inventory management, customer service, and last-mile delivery solutions. 

In Europe, retailers such as Ocado (a leading online grocery retailer in the UK) have pioneered the use of highly-automated warehouses and robotic picking systems. German discount supermarket chain Lidl has implemented robotic inventory management solutions in its stores, while French retailer Carrefour has introduced autonomous delivery robots for last-mile logistics. 

Asia, too, is witnessing a surge in retail robotics adoption. Leading e-commerce platforms like Alibaba and have invested heavily in automation and robotics to streamline their logistics operations. Japanese retail giants like MUJI and Aeon have embraced interactive robots for customer service and in-store assistance. 

Zippedi is an international autonomous robot manufacturer that operates in the US, Latin America, Australia, and Europe. Zippedi is designed for shelf maintenance and inventory management. Their robots currently travel over 300,000 kilometres and scan more than 3 billion labels per year. Its capabilities include identifying gaps, misplaced items, or products lacking price tags, thereby significantly improving store productivity​​.interactions. 

The Future of Retail Robotics 

As the global retail landscape continues to evolve, the demand for robotic solutions is expected to grow exponentially. According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the global retail robotics market is projected to grow from USD 0.4 Billion in 2024 to USD 1.8 Billion by 2028, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 33.7% from 2024 to 2028. 

This rapid growth is fueled by several key factors, including the increasing adoption of e-commerce, the need for efficient supply chain management, the integration of AI and big data analytics, and the push for enhanced customer experiences. Additionally, advancements in robotics technology, such as improved mobility, dexterity, and perception capabilities have enabled the development of increasingly sophisticated and capable robotic systems. 

Looking ahead, the future of retail robotics promises even more groundbreaking innovations, including the emergence of advanced collaborative robots (cobots) that can work seamlessly alongside human employees, enhancing productivity and safety. Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) will be omnipresent in warehouses and distribution centres, optimising logistics and reducing operational costs. 

Furthermore, the integration of robotics with other emerging technologies, such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and the Internet of Things (IoT), will open up new possibilities for deeply-immersive and highly-personalised shopping experiences. Examples of this integration include AI-powered virtual assistants that guide customers through virtual showrooms, and robots capable of providing personalised product recommendations based on real-time data analysis from IoT sensors. 

The convergence of robotics, AI, and big data analytics will also drive advancements in predictive maintenance, enabling retailers to proactively identify and address potential issues with their robotic systems before they occur. This will not only improve operational efficiency but also maximise the lifespan and return on investment of these advanced technologies. 

As we navigate this exciting era of retail transformation, it’s essential for businesses to remain agile, embrace innovation, and cultivate a culture of continuous learning and adaptation. By harnessing the power of robotics, AI, and big data analytics, and integrating them seamlessly into their operations, retailers can unlock new realms of efficiency, customer satisfaction, and competitive advantage. 

RDG Recommends 

Data retrieval and speed of processing is increasingly a strong differentiator, both in terms of inventory analytics from production through to distribution and customer experience. The growing use of robotics enables an acceleration of data processing that’s not possible without it.  

Review your current processes both front and back of house to identify where efficiencies can be made. 


The rise of retail robotics is not merely just another technological trend; it’s a paradigm shift that has the potential to redefine the entire shopping experience. From intelligent inventory management and streamlined order fulfilment to interactive customer service and efficient last-mile delivery, robots are revolutionising the retail sector in ways that were once unimaginable. 

Australian retailers, known for their progressive mindset and willingness to embrace innovation, have been at the forefront of this robotic revolution. Companies like Woolworths, Westfield, and Wing have successfully implemented robotic solutions, demonstrating the vast potential for improved efficiency, cost savings, and enhanced customer experiences. 

However, as with any transformative technology, the adoption of retail robotics presents a range of challenges that must be addressed. Initial investment costs, system integration, data management, employee acceptance, regulatory compliance, and ethical considerations are just a few of the hurdles that businesses must navigate. 

To overcome these challenges, retailers must adopt comprehensive strategies that involve thorough cost-benefit analyses, effective change management practices, robust data governance frameworks, and a commitment to responsible and inclusive implementation. By prioritising employee upskilling, fostering a culture of continuous learning, and partnering with a retail advisory group, as well as robotics providers and industry associations, retailers can ensure a smooth transition into the robotic era. 

The successful integration of robotics in the retail sector is not solely dependent on the technology itself but also on the synergistic collaboration between robots, AI, and big data analytics. These three pillars work in tandem, with AI and machine learning algorithms powering the decision-making capabilities of robots, while big data analytics provide the insights necessary to optimise operations and drive innovation. 

Looking beyond the Australian context, the global retail landscape is witnessing a rapid acceleration in the adoption of robotic solutions. However, it’s essential for Australian retailers to remain agile, embrace innovation, and cultivate a culture of continuous learning and adaptation. By harnessing the power of robotics, AI, and big data analytics, and integrating them seamlessly into their operations, retailers can shape the way we shop, interact, and experience the world of retail – both in 2024 and beyond.

Contact the Retail Doctor Group, a retail advisory and consulting practice that builds retail channels and increases the performance of retail and FMCG businesses through our customised & transformative ‘Business Fitness™’ methodologies.

Since 2005 we have partnered with our clients to build powerful, award-winning, sustainable, and “fit” implemented retail. Ensuring our clients consistently achieve above benchmarks, build sales and margin results. We stay with our clients to ensure success.

As the Australian elected member of International Retail Experts, Ebeltoft Group, we have more than 20 years of experience as retailers and consultants in all retail channels, segments and regions. Today, members of the Ebeltoft network advise 80 of the 100 largest retail companies in the world.

Want to know more about the Future of Retail and prepare your retail strategies? Schedule an appointment with our Insights division by e-mailing us at or calling 02 9460 2882.