Retail Automation: Efficiency Gain or a Threat to Jobs?

Bogdan Ciubotaru Managing Partner Aliant

In a world where global and regional changes are increasingly rapid and crises are chained one after another, consumers end up redefining their habits and the way they make purchases. We live in an economy where adaptability, proactivity, efficiency and agility make a major difference. Retail must adapt quickly to survive and thrive.

At the same time, the momentum that technology has taken potentiates these very changes in the market and equally offers valuable opportunities in the retail business.

In this context, a question takes shape: "How can we use technology to make it more efficient? Can we make certain processes or operations run faster, without errors and without human involvement? Can we do more with less? And, in the same time, could we also gain competitive advantages that propel us into the market?

The answer is given by hyper-automation. This is a term that refers to the use of several technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Chatbots and Augmented Reality (AR) to automate as many business processes as possible.

Automation can have a significant positive impact on business efficiency and help reduce costs and increase productivity. At the same time, automation can provide new business opportunities through the development of new products and services. But automation also comes with challenges, such as changes in the business model and concerns about job losses.


An example of a hyper-automation solution that can be useful in retail is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The technology involves the use of "software robots" to automate repetitive and routine processes such as data entry, running processes in Finance departments, checking and updating stocks or processing orders. This can help save time and reduce errors while providing greater flexibility.


Another example of innovative technology that can be useful in retail is the conversational AI chatbot. The chatbot allows interaction with customers through chat or voice messages, providing answers to frequently asked questions or helping to solve problems. In recent years, this technology has developed massively, among the most well-known applications being ChatGPT which amazed the whole world with its ability to have natural conversations and give extremely clear and useful answers.

The chatbot can be used to provide real-time customer support, both to employees, can issue employee certificates, information related to remaining vacation days, etc., and to end customers, providing useful suggestions and information, which improves the experience in its entirety and can help increase sales, reduce internal costs and speed up operational processes.


AR is another innovative technology that can be useful for retail companies because it involves adding virtual elements to the real world through viewing equipment such as smartphones, tablets or augmented reality glasses.

In retail, AR can be used to give customers a more personalized and interactive experience, such as being able to see how a product would look in different colors or in different environments.

Augmented reality can be used in logistics warehouses to guide forklift workers through visualization equipment such as augmented reality glasses. This can help improve worker efficiency and productivity and reduce injury risks, as workers can receive real-time visual instructions, such as where to store or retrieve products. AR can also display product information such as weight or dimensions, which can help avoid errors in order processing.


Hyper-automation technology can be seen as a threat to retail jobs, as automation can replace certain processes that are currently performed by humans. But in general, the benefits and opportunities created are likely to create more jobs.

First, automation will not completely replace jobs, but only certain processes that are standardized, repetitive, and too time-consuming to be done by humans. Thus, employees will be able to focus on other processes that require human skills, such as more complex operations, creative tasks or decision-making.

Second, automation helps improve business efficiency and productivity, which can lead to increased company competitiveness and demand for its products and services. An increase in business means the creation of new jobs.

Third, automation can help improve working conditions for employees by eliminating repetitive, routine work or those activities that by their nature present a higher risk of injury and leave room for higher value-added activities with a direct impact on strategy, increasing revenue and profitability.


The Ant

The Ant


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