Between 2023 and 2028, artificial intelligence in retail markets is expected to grow from $7.3 billion to upwards of $29.45 billion — more than a 400 percent increase. But when most of us imagine how those innovations and implementations will transform the retail world, we tend to only focus on how those technologies benefit consumers.
However, the adoption of AI by independent and chain retail establishments is primed to improve store employees' lives. Despite fears that AI will take away jobs, human work isn't going away anytime soon.
Employees are the backbone of any great retail business. With a deeper understanding of your customer base, those employees become better equipped to offer proactive solutions, provide personalized recommendations, and monitor feedback. But this is only part of what AI makes possible.
AI can even help attract and retain employees, train them to your company's standards, and anticipate, then satisfy, customer needs before they ever think to ask for them.
Keep Your Business Running and Your Customers Happy
Regardless of how popular and common online shopping has become, physical store locations will always play a big part in your success — which is why frontline employees play a crucial role.
Harnessing the true power of AI and its ability to learn and adapt over time starts with how you hire and onboard workers. In my experience, staffing shortages can severely disrupt customer service, so a modern and efficient approach to hiring employees is critical.
Using AI, tedious hiring tasks like sourcing job candidates, screening applicants, and scheduling their interviews can be easily automated, freeing up store managers and hiring managers to create better connections with applicants and serve customers in-store.
And beyond automation, AI can serve as an extension of your recruiting team. With the right AI chatbot, for example, an applicant can ask any question, communicate in their preferred language, and get a sense of the job and your company, before they ever come in for an interview.
Once decisions are made post-interviews, AI can send offer letters to new hires, digitally collect their paperwork, and even initiate background checks to keep things running smoothly. When you're a hiring manager, the time AI saves you each day is a game changer.
By streamlining the overall hiring process with AI, your in-store team can get out from behind the desk, out from under hours of hiring tasks, and focus on providing excellent customer service and a great employee experience to the people in-store.
Keep Your Employees Engaged and Feeling Confident
AI-driven automation and personalization also have the potential to vastly improve everyday work experiences for the retail workforce. This can be especially helpful for new hires that are getting up to speed, transitioning into their roles, and catching on to the nuances of your retail business.
Much like the AI tools that help filter applications and flag profiles to satisfy desired hiring criteria, AI can deliver targeted recommendations that your workers can use — based on the patterns, preferences and trends it identifies within your customer base. It can help your team identify busier days of the week or times of day to help you stay appropriately staffed to keep employees from burning out. Additionally, AI can identify buying behavior trends that allow your team to push the right products at the right time, increasing sales and their feeling of on-the-job satisfaction.
The advantages of incorporating AI into the retail work environment aren't limited to giving your employees insightful data about the customers they serve. The knowledge that AI provides can help lessen the learning curve for new hires and increase their confidence in their abilities. An AI-powered chatbot can help workers answer questions on the job in seconds, like what a particular discount code is, or even help them brush up on company policies.
Without the need to track down a manager, new and existing employees can solve problems faster, not only improving their performance but allowing them to focus on providing a good customer experience. AI can also enable employees to handle multiple customer requests at once — maximizing efficiency while helping ease the burden when your workforce is temporarily understaffed or overworked. Which, in turn, improves job satisfaction among your team.
It's no longer a question of whether to introduce AI into your retail establishment for hourly workers to use. In today's fast-paced world, it's become a matter of how to do it and when.
Keep Your Hourly Retail Workers at the Forefront of AI
Like any new innovation or business practice, getting your employees to adopt and interact with AI regularly depends on how relevant the technology is to them. Therefore, start by introducing AI-based tools that make work life easier. For instance, consider an AI scheduling solution.
For many hourly workers, flexibility is as important as pay. According to Skedulo, 47 percent of people would work for a company that offered them flexible scheduling over a 10 percent bump in pay. The added convenience and greater say over their scheduling keeps employees engaged, while the ability to avoid over- and under-staffing with last-minute adjustments benefit your business.
As mentioned above, chatbots are another way to get your employees to interact with AI. With access to real-time feedback while at or off work, all from the convenience of their phones, you may see increased employee satisfaction, lower turnover rates, and more effective job skills training for new hires. Additionally, the data collected through those AI interactions can be used to enhance store efficiency, customer service capabilities and drive business growth.
Keep the Possibilities Open for AI at Your Business
The constant evolution and advancement of AI show no signs of slowing. By 2041, experts suggest that almost all data will become digitized, furthering AI's impact on decision making and optimization settings. AI's benefits can also be customized and selected based on your needs.
Rather than being a looming threat that can reduce the size of a workforce, AI can be a new source for job satisfaction and confidence. The exponential growth of AI promises to improve your store's bottom line and increase its revenue by boosting employee productivity. Such an outcome requires us to be open to the possibilities, which is what AI is all about.
Desmond Lim is the co-founder and CEO of Workstream, the smart people platform for the hourly workforce.
Desmond Lim is the co-founder and CEO of Workstream, the smart people platform for the hourly workforce. He built Workstream to empower the deskless economy with the tools and technologies they need to do their jobs better. Today, Workstream helps 20,000+ businesses hire and retain hourly workers through its mobile-first, AI-powered platform. Desmond is a graduate of Harvard University and MIT Media Lab and an investor at Dorm Room Fund.