The Grapevine

Wine Retail – Are The Robots Coming?

July 2nd, 2013

Are robots the wave of the future? Apparently so if you’re buying jeans in Silicon Valley’s Palo Alto. Hointer, a shop there run by (naturally) a former Amazon logistics expert, allows shoppers to use their smartphones to select clothing from displays around the stores. They also scan the size and color they want, and Hointer’s retail robots automatically assign a dressing room and deliver the clothes their pneumatically. [level-members]

Should retail employees be nervous about their future job prospects? Probably not. At least not until the robots have been programmed to diplomatically answer the dreaded “question of death:” do these pants make me look fat?

Seriously, this sounds like a publicity stunt – I wouldn’t be surprised to find there’s nothing robotic about it at all, just real, live human staffers in a back room checking messages and stuffing jeans into plastic tubes.

Either way, there are a couple of take-aways worth thinking about:

  1. Novelty will get you attention. If you go to the well once to often, you do wind up looking silly and you run the risk of not being taken seriously.
  2. Know your audience. This idea would still be novel in, say, Dubuque, but without the huge population of geeks that live and work in and around Palo Alto, it wouldn’t be nearly as successful.

So, don’t be afraid to do things that stand out from the crowd. (How far up the silly scale you go is up to you.) And do pay attention to who your audience is and what they are after. Young parents? Retirees? Vacationers? All may have different things in mind when they walk into your shop. The more of those ideas you can accommodate, the more wine you will sell.