The next time you stop at your local grocery store for eggs and bread, don’t be surprised to see small drones scanning shelves.
Austin-based retail-tech firm Pensa is testing a new system in select retailers to capture in-store, real-time data by launching drones to fly around store shelves. The data can be processed seamlessly by Pensa’s backend intelligent cloud.
“In our store pilots, we’ve conducted thousands of drone flights around real-world retail environments, and at the end of the day, people in the stores are pretty ho-hum. The drones barely garner a glance from most shoppers, most of the time,” Pensa CEO Richard Schwartz writes in a recent blog post.
“The Pensa drone doesn’t look like ‘a drone’ in the conventional sense most people expect. Several recent press articles described the Pensa drone as looking more like flying whiffle balls – a reference to the distinctive protective encasings around the drone’s four propellers.”
Schwartz adds, the unassuming look of the drone and its quiet flight profile rarely surprises shoppers and in fact, nearly half of the shoppers didn’t notice the drones. “People who noticed the drone treated it much as they would treat a store worker or a new machine.”
The company has already trialed the system for Anheuser-Busch InBev’s IGA Extra Beck retailer in Montreal where drones completed more than 200 flights.
“Any solution that can help us maintain store integrity and ensure we don’t have out-of-stocks provides the competitive advantage we need,” said Todd Beck, owner, IGA Extra Beck. “The ability to learn about a potential out-of-stock situation hours ahead of when our manual systems might notify us represents an opportunity to drive incremental sales and make customers happier in the process. The immediate feedback we can get from the Pensa system can offer tremendous value to our business.”
Pensa drew a crowd during “Retail’s Big Show” earlier this year in New York City.
“You can’t sell what you don’t have on the shelf. In-store inventory visibility remains a giant black hole for the retail supply chain. Retailers and brand manufacturers have tried all combinations of robots, cameras and smart shelving, but these solutions are too expensive, inaccurate and brittle. By combining AI smarts in the cloud with inexpensive drones for remote data collection, we have created a scalable solution that can break the logjam.”