Nestle commissions empathic robot to sell its coffee machines in Japan
The company’s Japanese wing launched its coffee machines in 2009 to a muted response at Nestlé headquarters in Switzerland. Japanese executives presented data that showed a high demand for drinking quality instant coffee in the country and pushed the issue. In recent years, the company has been recording 50-100% sales increases as a result of the machines.
Nescafé will use the humanoid robot “Pepper” to sell Nescafé Dolce Gusto and Nescafé Gold Blend Barista coffee machines in home appliance stores in Japan starting in December.
Nestlé claims Pepperis the world’s first robot to be able to read and respond to human emotions. Equipped with voice and emotion recognition technology, he/she is able to read people’s facial expressions and listen to their tone of voice to analyse how they’re feeling.
“Pepper will be able to explain Nescafé products and services and engage in conversation with consumers. I hope that this new consumer engagement model will expand across the world as an example of Japanese innovation” said Kohzoh Takaoka, chief executive of Nestlé Japan.
Pepper is produced by SoftBank Robotics, a subsidiary of SoftBank Corporation and is part of the company’s ambition to take technology beyond factory floors.
“The dream to create an advanced consumer experience with Pepper is now coming true. We hope that by providing people the opportunity to interact with a robot whilst shopping, we can help create experiences of wonder and delight for consumers” said Masayuki Son, chief executive of SoftBank.
Pepper will begin selling Nescafé machines in around 20 home appliance stores. Nestlé is planning to use the robot nationwide in around 1,000 stores by the end of 2015.
The use of Pepper to advance Nescafé in Japan follows other recent Nestlé Japan innovation efforts centred on engaging with consumers in unique and relevant ways and helping them connect with each other over coffee.
In January, the division launched a KitKat boutique in the Seibu department store in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district to stock exclusive varieties of the chocolate bar created in collaboration with Japanese chocolatier Takagi.
Courtesy of the store, consumers can choose varieties of the chocolate bar including Purple Potato, Cinnamon Cookie, European Cheese, Bean Cake and Wasabi.
In June, the company began an initiative that let commuters use KitKat bars as tickets on public railways.
"Since the ways that shops and restaurants operate are changing, it is important to offer products and services on the cutting edge of these shifting trends,” Takaoka said in an interview with Nikkei.
“It is not enough for coffee companies just to sell coffee. The main focus should be on solving consumers' problems by offering vertically integrated solutions that also cover services and machines. Nestle's federalist culture encourages us to take the responsibility and adjust to the needs of the local market.”