The pace of automation in retail is increasing. For example, retail drones will expand from nearly 35,000 in 2022 to over 110,000 in 2024, our latest forecast shows. That growth means the industry has the opportunity to improve efficiencies and meet growing consumer demand for better, faster service.
Automating manual jobs could open opportunities for high-value jobs focused on CX. There’s a common assumption that automation leads to job losses, but it can also lead to job shifting. With robots and automated systems taking over restocking, fulfillment services, and checkout, the efficiency gains will create openings for more high-touch online and in-store service roles.
Robotics will likely lead to tectonic shifts in manufacturing. As low-skilled labor costs become less important, some manufacturing may shift away from lower-cost countries—particularly as laws promoting local manufacturing, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, increase incentives. This could have major implications on sourcing, partnerships, design cycles, and fulfillment operations, and retailers should be ready.
Cybersecurity is even more important. More machines mean more areas that need to be protected from malware, phishing, and other strategies dreamed up by hackers. As the danger increases, most companies are increasing their budgets and building capacity to combat threats.
Despite economic uncertainty, keep your eye on automation over the long term. Although short-term investments may need to be pruned, any retailer that ignores the possibilities from automation will risk the medium- to long-term health of their business. In-store automation will be an $8.4 billion business by 2030 based on a 25% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), according to ABI Research. The next year looks to be turbulent, but technologies for automation continue to improve.
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