Guest Column | July 14, 2016

A Fine Line: Technology And Retail Associates

Adan Pope

By Adan Pope, ShopperTrak Chief Technology Officer

Read Part 1

As my colleague pointed out in a recent piece with IRT, technology plays a significant role in the life of a retail associate – beginning at the onboarding phase and extending into the various activities of an everyday shift. And, as a result of changing consumer expectations, the use cases for multiple associate-used technologies are only increasing. For example, mobile POS options and tablets allow associates to better meet shopper needs (e.g., check out rapidly, determine inventory availability) and increase conversion rates. The ability to optimize the queue and sell items not in the physical store is now a necessity to succeed in brick-and-mortar retail. And, while purposefully applying technology offers various benefits, technologies should be deployed with careful consideration of the retail environment and approached in a balanced manner.

The threat of automation

Various news outlets continue to underscore the increase in technologies that will, essentially, automate the tasks of hourly workers and replace their roles altogether. Fast food appears to be the industry most associated with this threat; however, retail is included. And, while such a change is very possible, it’s also ill-advised for retailers. Why? Because retail employees are a brand’s greatest differentiator. Store associates are advocates – sought-after experts – and technology should be used to complement their role and deliver on a retailer’s omnichannel strategy.