Gartner reports that retailers will be deploying tech on a large scale by 2025. Source: Shutterstock.

Gartner reports that retailers will be deploying tech on a large scale by 2025. Source: Shutterstock.

Gartner: Retailers will be going full-on digital by 2025

THE TURN of a new decade brings about much change to the retail industry.

Not only are today’s retailers bringing their business onto online platforms, various up and coming technologies are also being leveraged in daily operations.

Recently, analyst firm Gartner reaffirmed the integral standing of technology in the retail world. It predicted that by 2025, at least two out of the top 10 global retailers will form robot resource organizations to manage non-human workers.

Gartner Senior Research Director Kelsie Marian said that the new currency in the retail industry will now be customer experience.

To stay relevant, retailers must thus keep up with the evolving needs and wants of the digital-first consumer.

“The adoption of new digital technologies and the ever-changing expectations of customers continues to challenge traditional retailers, forcing them to investigate new-human hybrid operational models, including artificial intelligence (AI), automation and robotics “

The same report also showed that by next year, 77 percent of retailers plan to deploy AI at scale. Plans to use robotics primarily for warehouse picking are also already in the works.

Warehouse picking, often the most labor-intensive activity in a warehouse, is the act of selecting items from inventories to fill a customer order. In this aspect, smart robots can either work independently, or alongside human workers to hasten the process.

Also, Gartner noted that retailers will set aside resources to establish specific units within the organization for the maintenance of robot resources such as procuring, training, taxing, and proper disposal.

Also cognizant of the importance of governance and regulations, retailers expressed an emphasis on creating the positions required for managing the collaboration between humans and robots.

AI is seen to be most effective when it works hand in hand with human workers, as on-demand or predictive assistants.

For example, an autonomous robotic kitchen learns an operator’s recipes, and prepares them accordingly. The robots can then add some flexibility to operators who are constantly adapting to the changing tastes of customers.

The key to success here, however, is choosing the right candidate.

There should be a combined effort from HR, IT, and line managers to continuously identify the right talent and system that can best work with one another.

“Retail CIOs must provide ongoing maintenance and monitoring performance for effectiveness. If not, the team may be counterproductive, and lead to bad customer experiences.”

Understandably, the deployment of technology on such a large scale can stir anxiety amongst the workforce.

It is crucial, therefore, that leaders encourage open floor discussions to address employee concerns, ensuring that they understand that technology will augment, not steal their jobs.

When there is a mindset change around the development of robot resource units, the next logical step would be to empower them with the skills and tools needed to forge the ‘robot-human’ partnership with accuracy and efficiency.

Do this well, and leaders can sit back, reaping its benefits for a long time in the future.