Will the new-age shop assistant need a PhD?

Experts and ‘trusted advisors’ likely to reform the retail experience

Will the new-age shop assistant need a PhD?

Retail is an industry which has often offered an accessible route to work. Will this opportunity continue to exist in a sector which is set for radical technological transformation?

Whether in full-time work, temporary employment or working flexible, part-time hours, many Europeans have experience of working within the retail or hospitality sectors. Traditionally this is an industry which has seen a constant focus on customer care, balanced against a backdrop of rushing to-and-from stockrooms, dealing with direct customer requests and payments at the till. Technology is set to change all that.

The changing face of retail

In recent research exploring the workplace of tomorrow, Epson interviewed over 7,000 European workers alongside industry leaders. Our findings show that workers within retail recognise an industry on the verge of significant change.

60 percent of respondents believe that in the retail industry of tomorrow, transactional and cashier responsibilities will no longer exist. As part of this retail revolution, the role of employees will evolve, with 74 percent of respondents seeing employees of the future as experts and ‘trusted advisors’ in their industry, able to readily access up-to-date information to satisfy customer needs.

The result of this change in how industry workers operate will mean a growing need to develop new skills, with new training required to help develop the capabilities of this emerging ‘in-store advisor’, enabling them to add value to the retail experience that advanced technologies cannot.

A consumer benefit

This transformation will bring sizeable benefits to consumers, as a significant new trend emerges alongside the traditional ‘buy what’s on offer’ model. A more consumer-centric ‘what you see is what you can print (WYSIWYP)’ model will offer on-demand personalisation and customisation like never before. Increasing amounts of data will ensure retailers have customer information readily available, supporting a shift towards an ultra-personalised shopping experience for consumers.

Retail’s technological transformation will open up fresh opportunities for companies to delight and engage their customers in new ways, a view our research shows is supported by both workers and industry experts. Jonathan Reynolds, Academic Director of the Oxford Institute of Retail Management, argues that in this emerging retail environment, the greatest challenge for physical goods will be adopting emerging technologies in home distribution, such as drone delivery.

Technology is the new advantage

As the pace of change grows, retailers will be increasingly pressured to integrate new technologies in order to gain an edge over competition. In particular, they must facilitate speed of transactions, allowing retail staff to nurture the sense of community that the modern consumer will grow to expect, while freeing up the time to add value in their new roles as trusted advisors.

Ultimately, if the retail workforce is to be enabled to fulfil this new role, education and training will be key. Understanding the new skills workers require will be equally vital. Individuals with strong interpersonal skills, service industry sensibilities, and the ability to effectively work with the technology, will all be needed if retailers and customers alike aim to benefit from a technologically enhanced retail environment.

Want to know more?

The full report has all the insights, you can download it here