Retailers Embrace Technology so Staff Can Focus on Customer Service

By Melina Wisecup

NEW YORK— Will retail stores die out because to online shopping or will they evolve with the times? At this year’s National Retail Federation Big Show, many retail movers and shakers discussed strategic ways to implement technology at their brick and mortar stores.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said that his company is working toward developing artificial intelligence to do tedious tasks such as keeping count of inventory. He says the goal is to free up staff so that they will have more time to connect with customers.

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Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson and host talk at the National Retail Federation Big Show in New York City on Jan. 13, 2020. (Don Tran/NTD)

“As human beings we were meant to interact with one another that’s how we get energy, that’s how we get support when we are dealing with adversity. It’s how we share joy and successes in our lives,” said Johnson.

When asked if the plan was really to improve human connection or if the ultimate goal was to reduce the staff’s working hours, Johnson said that all of the extra time that resulted from the use of technology would be used to pay more attention to customers.

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Self Service Return machine featured at the National Retail Federation Expo in New York City on Jan. 13, 2020. (Don Tran/NTD)

An expo at the show featured the latest technology in the retail business. One device featured was a self-service return machine. CEO of Doodle, Daniel Nevin said that the purpose of the machine is not to deter customers from shopping in stores, but to accommodate the needs of each customer.

“Each customer requires a different approach… It’s not a one-size-fits-all and it’s to supplement all the other solutions that you have so that everybody indirectly benefits,” Nevin told NTD.

Reports by business insider show that a number of stores closed down last year, however, a study by statistica shows that from 2017 to 2019, more stores have actually been opening than closing.

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People walk around at the National Retail Federation Expo in New York City on Jan. 13, 2020. (Don Tran/NTD).

“Digital retailers are now getting a physical presence, retailers who had only a physical presence who are doing extensive development of their online presence because the customer isn’t just doing one,” said Adam Lukoskie, vice president of the Nation Retail Federation Foundation.

It looks like retailers are embracing technology to try to provide a shopping experience filled with more authentic human connection.