Toward the Final Frontier of Retail Automation
By Michael Spataro, Chief Customer Officer, Legion Technologies
The pandemic and its socioeconomic aftershocks have impacted few industries more intensely than the retail sector. The industry has experienced a fluttering of closures and reopenings that shattered long-held best practices for how retail businesses should operate. From the explosion of e-commerce, to a turbulent economy to mass unionization efforts, retail is witnessing a functional reckoning that will carry into 2023 and beyond, laying the groundwork for a fundamental transformation of the industry.
Prediction #1: Adoption of retail automation will explode in 2023.
For years, the retail industry has followed a slow but steady arc toward automation. Organizations have embraced self-checkout lines, automated inventory management solutions, and even service robots with the goal of optimizing productivity and efficiency within their operations.
In 2023, we will approach the final frontier of retail automation: labor processes. We’ll see more companies using intelligent automation, enabled by a new generation of AI-driven enterprise applications, to streamline their labor operations and deploying workforce management solutions that predict sales and labor demand across all customer touchpoints and locations and instantly create optimized employee schedules. By automating these processes, retailers will enable their managers to shift their focus to the human aspects of their work: driving better sales and improving employee engagement.
From the explosion of e-commerce, to a turbulent economy to mass unionization efforts, retail is witnessing a functional reckoning that will carry into 2023 and beyond, laying the groundwork for a fundamental transformation of the industry.
Prediction #2: The labor shortage will continue. Retailers must be agile and ready to adapt.
Retail managers should keep one phrase in mind when recruiting new team members in 2023: there’s always another job. As the current labor shortage persists in the New Year, hourly employees will prioritize positions that offer more schedule control / flexibility and higher wages. In fact, research shows scheduling autonomy and flexibility are the most important deciding factors for hourly employees when choosing a job, beyond pay.
If retailers want to attract and retain their frontline employees in 2023 and beyond, they’ll need to provide workers with the work/life flexibility they expect from their employer, as well as expanded benefits such as early access to earned wages, continued learning, and career growth opportunities. Otherwise, as these benefits become increasingly non-negotiable, retailers who fail to adapt will put their operations in jeopardy.
Prediction #3: The hourly employee experience will be critical to labor optimization efforts.
Benefits and flexibility won’t be the only make-or-break factor when it comes to reducing turnover in 2023 as the overall employee experience, and the value beyond wages that employees gain from their jobs, plays an increasingly crucial role in labor optimization.
And with 90% of CEOs bracing for a recession, employee retention will be critical. In the next year, more retailers will come to understand that labor costs also include the cost of replacing workers, resulting in more modern employee experience practices such as gig-like flexibility and modern communication tools. The past two years have emboldened workers to make these long overdue demands, and now, retailers must implement the processes and technologies to meet them.
The retail industry has come a long way, and we can expect even bigger strides next year. Should these predictions come to fruition, frontline workers have much to look forward to in 2023: they’ll finally arrive at the “future of work.”