What Does the Future Retail Workforce Look Like?

With the growth of artificial intelligence and automation, many American workers remain concerned about the impact these new technologies will have on the future security of their jobs.

This threat is especially prominent in the minds of workers in retail, an industry that has seen the business model increasingly focus on the digital space. Even in brick-and-mortar stores, innovations like Amazon’s cashier-less ‘Go’ stores pose a potential threat to the workforce.

While Silicon Valley continues to grow in value and influence, new data shows how important artificial intelligence will be in not only improving current jobs, but also contributing a significant amount to the economy.

AI in particular has seen significant growth throughout the business sector. According to a survey from Narrative Science and the National Business Research institute, 61 percent of businesses implemented some sort of AI in their systems— up 23 percent from the year before.

Now, new research conducted by McKinsey Global Institute predicts that by 2020, 70 percent of companies will implement some form of AI within their business. This, however, is just a fraction of the bigger picture this technology has provided for the future of the American workforce.

The same research from McKinsey predicts a valuable impact AI can have on gross domestic product, with forecasts suggesting AI could contribute up to 1.2 percent in GDP growth for the next ten years.

Furthermore, the McKinsey model also predicts artificial intelligence can help capture an additional 20-25 percent in net economic benefits, which equates to roughly $13 trillion worldwide for the next 12 years.

All of this change has many rightfully worried about losing a traditionally human job to automation. A common misconception, however, is equating AI to automation. While some studies do predict low-skill job losses at the hands of automation, the number of jobs created has been predicted as high as 2.3 million by 2020.

This is an accurate reflection of the importance this technology will have in collaboration with human counterparts. Ken Goldberg, a co-author of the Tata survey, wrote in the study there is a growing interest in ‘Multiplicity’, where AI helps groups of machines and humans collaborate to innovate and solve problems.

“The prevalent narrative around AI has focused on a ‘Singularity’ — a hypothetical time when artificial intelligence will surpass humans… this [data] reveals that Multiplicity, the positive and inclusive vision of AI, is gaining traction,” Goldberg said.

Regardless of how it will be manifested, the retail workforce is changing, and those that are able to use data to become more efficient stand to gain.


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