Walmart will install 10,000 self-checkout lanes in its stores this year. The reason? Every second lost at the register costs the company tens of millions of dollars, a hole in the dam they are hoping to plug. According to Retail Customer Experience, while technology is not going to replace all jobs, the truth of the matter is that it eventually will completely replace some.
From the article:
But there’s a bright side.
It’s that for the first time in about 40 years, there’s also a reviving market in retail for truly talented, creative and remarkable people. People whose work adds significant texture, vibrancy and human connection to the retail experience. People who are believers in the brand values, super-users of their products and co-creators who love to help their customers imagine and personalize solutions. True brand ambassadors.
Some retailers already seem to understand this. REI, The Container Store, Sephora, Bloomingdales and a handful of others seem to get it. They realize that their people aren’t just a cost item on the P&L but rather the spiritual glue that can make their brands truly sticky and loved. They understand that in a world of commodities, human emotional connection is the intangible value that can and must differentiate them.
But spinning yarns about cashiers taking the corner office isn’t going to get us anywhere. This is no longer a debate about the opportunities that do or don’t exist for hard working, underpaid retail workers. Let’s call it what it really is. It’s the end of the era in which retail workers are paid to punch buttons, enter numbers and count widgets — and no amount of nostalgia will reverse that.