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Is Automation the Answer to Solving Staffing Challenges?

Cashier wearing face mask working in a store

Grocers across the country are facing labor shortages, causing them to find alternative ways to keep their stores running. To combat staffing issues, more retailers are investing in automation and grocery technology to streamline tasks typically done by store associates. This includes adding more options for self-checkout and automation tools that help stores manage their inventory. While hiring and retention issues in the industry are complex and challenging, they also force retailers to advance to the future of grocery automation.

There are plenty of factors causing the current worker shortage including childcare concerns, increased competition with other opportunities, and alluring benefits from the federal and local governments. In short, fewer people are looking for work. Larger chains are adding new benefits to their employment packages like higher sign-on bonuses and free food. But these perks may not be enough for job seekers. The Washington Post reported that retail workers are fed up with low pay and long hours during the pandemic, leading to them seeking higher-paying positions in less demanding environments.

Benefits of Retail Automation

Self-checkout is an area of focus for grocers. Not only does self-checkout save labor on the front end, but it’s also a shopper’s preferred method of checkout. In fact, more than three-quarters of consumers surveyed in December by a mobile data company said they would be more likely to shop in a store if it offered scan-and-go checkout technology. 

As technology advances, shoppers are increasingly interested in moving through stores as fast as possible. Smart cart technology is another advancement allowing shoppers to independently purchase items without having to wait in line. Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered carts detect items instantly through basket cameras, allowing shoppers to pay for their groceries directly via a built-in touch screen. Research shows shoppers who use smart carts increase their basket sizes by 10%.

When it comes to backend operations, automation can be a sound solution to filling the staffing gap. Technologies like electronic shelf tags can help save on labor costs since they take less work to maintain. Digital price displays can also be used to facilitate dynamic pricing, which is a big plus for grocers. Some retailers are looking into utilizing aisle-scanning robots to automate inventory tracking as well. Store managers report the tasks are done more efficiently when performed by a robot.

As more retailers rely on technology to fill the staffing gap, human workers are beginning to question the role they’ll play in the store. Sure automation can help retailers save money and speed customers through the buying process, but humans still play a crucial role in customer service and managing the overall shopping experience. By utilizing retail technology, grocers are forced to reevaluate where their workers best serve the company and how to better utilize their skills.

STCR's Retail Solutions

Whether your store is experiencing staffing shortages or not, grocery technology will make your store more appealing to customers and workers alike. Having a complete suite of in-store and digital solutions for your store is a crucial part of surviving in today’s market. Count on the professionals at STCR to evaluate your needs and help bring your grocery store to the next level. Request a demo to get started!

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