The Technological Future of Retail

Time-consuming inventory-making, the tedious goods-acceptance process and the equally troublesome product returns are just a few of the many tasks that retail professionals will not waste their time on in the future. Automation will change the mechanics of retail work and will require new competences from store employees. As retailers are already preparing for the oncoming revolution, employees should also think about what skills they need to acquire in order to work in the profession when changes already set in.


Intense technological development that we can observe today is a huge opportunity for companies that aim to build a competitive advantage in retail. At the same time, it is a major challenge for employers. 92% of entrepreneurs in the US, and 70% in Asia, instead of waiting for what will happen in a few years, are already implementing the remote radio frequency identification systems (RFID) that will revolutionise their work processes. Compared to them, Europe (30% of companies are implementing RFID)*, and Poland in particular, still have much to do. Most individuals are open to the upcoming changes. According to the Evolution of Work report, 81% professionals in the Asia-Pacific region are enthusiastic about them (as compared to 59% in Europe). The technological revolution in retail cannot be stopped: companies that do not follow the trend, may disappear from the market. The changes also affect employees, because their duties will not be the same.


In the future, store workers will not waste their day on time-consuming activities such as inventory-making, receiving deliveries, completing orders, working at the register, and replenishing stock. These, and many other actions, will be automated and performed not only intuitively, but also faster”, says Marek Kwiatkowski, Head of Retail RFID at Sescom. One of the recent analyses conducted by Sescom shows that the employees of one of our clients, the owner of a shoe store chain, spend 185 hours a month at each site – more than one full-time equivalent – performing duties that they will not have to perform when an RFID system is implemented. This is just one of many examples. Inefficient organization of work in stores is a problem for many shop chains – especially those that use outdated management methods or do not keep permanent staff. This is why retailers invest in technologies that make team work faster and more efficient, and focus on activities that improve sales, such as constant updates of stock or the Omnichannel”, Kwiatkowski adds.


Retailers with intuition

The experience Sescom has gained in 30 countries, in cooperation with more than 300 clients (and more than 40,000 facilities), allows us to predict the future of retail. Radio waves will automate work and make it intuitive. The acceptance of goods will not consist of tedious box-opening and content-counting anymore. Deliveries will be checked by RFID. Self-checkouts and smart dressing rooms (already tested by some companies) will allow the employees to, for example, take care of visual merchandising or to replenish goods, while the customer is busy buying their chosen products. Geolocation will make it easier to find a specific item in the sales area, or in the back of the store, and will, among other things, allow to limit the number of lost goods.


A full inventory will not be a problem either. In a medium-sized store, with a total of approximately 3,000 units, instead of 48 hours in total, it will last only 2 hours. Thanks to RFID, one person will be able to check 1,750 units within just 60 minutes (without this technology, only 150 pieces are inventoried per hour).


Store work will change not only at the lower positions, but also at the leadership and managerial levels. Thanks to RFID, the chain’s regional manager will be able to remotely monitor the situation at each facility and make the right, quick decisions: about price reductions, the display of goods or a transfer between stores. The system will inform her about the current stock of the entire store or its strategic locations, as much as about, for example, the products positioned at the front entrance. If shortcomings are noticed, the store manager will be able to contact employees on site and ask for an immediate replenishment of goods”, Marek Kwiatkowski explains.


According to Sescom’s forecast, the efficiency of employees will cease to be a problem in the future. The team’s results will not, as before, depend almost entirely on their meticulous work. Errors will be quite impossible, since the system already works in real time, quickly identifies flaws, reminds employees of the tasks that need to be done, and creates a complete picture of the situation in the store.


The resulting intuitiveness that technology brings is our response to the trends set by the generations that are now starting their professional careers, and by their expectations to be able to complete their tasks comfortably. Automation will also make it easier to introduce new team members or transfer them to another store, since intuitive work will eliminate the need for being led by the hand”, Kwiatkowski explains.


* “Painting the Digital Future of Retail and Consumer Goods Companies “, Accenture.