Self-checkout. Just Walk Out. Amazon Dash Cart. Robotics.
Retail is abuzz with technologies that are transforming stores, and it’s going to impact a lot more than just checkouts. The use of new technologies is driven by advancing capabilities and the need to address labor shortages, even as retailers are vying to hire and retain associates in the midst of a talent crunch.
So what’s ahead for food and drug retailers in light of these trends?
New Roles for Employees
What will happen to employees who may be displaced by retail technology? In the near term, at least, it seems there will be plenty for them to do. That’s because retailers are focusing on more in-store activities than ever, from in-store picking to curbside delivery, Sides pointed out. There’s also an opportunity for employees who are freed up from operational tasks to increase roles in customer service and engagement.
The long term is harder to predict, given that a steady stream of new technologies likely will keep entering the retail space.
One Size Will Not Fit All
The future balance between technology and staffing won’t be the same for all retailers. In verticals like food and drug, different models will rely on different strategies — and some will even require staff-intensive approaches. I can’t see how food retailers known for their signature perimeter departments, like bakery and deli, will succeed without strong customer service. I can’t imagine how pharmacies and clinics will continue to gain the trust of customers without their impressive lineup of healthcare professionals.
[Read more: Industry experts offer big ideas]
Let Customers Guide Strategies
Ultimately, consumers will decide the outcomes. They will choose which in-store experiences are best, and these will probably rely on a mix of technology and associates. Retailers need to stay on top of this mix because it will be a moving target for quite some time.