Sunday, January 31, 2016

Uber me baby!

I attended the National Retail Federation “BIG SHOW” earlier this month at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

NRF's 105th Annual Convention & EXPO was an amazing event. There were more than 33,500 attendees, hundreds of sessions, miles of EXPO, technologies to boggle the mind and so much more.

Retail sales workers include both those who sell retail merchandise, such as clothing, furniture, and automobiles, (called retail salespersons) and those who sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts (called parts salespersons). Both types of retail sales workers help customers find the products they want and process customers’ payments.

Last year (2015) in Retail:
Median Pay was $10.42 per hour / $21.6780 per year
Number of Jobs (Retail Sales Workers) was 4,859,600
Job Outlook: +7% (As fast as average)

According to the NRF, employment of retail sales workers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Many workers leave this occupation, which means there will be a large number of job openings.

Did you catch that? Many workers leave this occupation, which means there will be a large number of job openings. People don’t leave a good thing.

Hertz never saw Zipcar coming; Zipcar never saw Uber coming.
Hilton and Marriott never saw AirBNB coming.
NBC, CBS, ABC (the big three) never saw HBO, Netflix and Hulu coming.
The National Retail Federation (with 105 years of wisdom) never saw coming.

Last night my son and I (finally) saw the new Star Wars movie in IMAX 3D. Tickets were $20 each, plus snacks. Normally we wait to watch most hit movies at home - unless it is a movie that “requires” the IMAX 3D experience. My living room with a big screen TV is usually just fine for movie watching (at a fraction of the price). We bought our Star Wars tickets in advance, online with a smartphone. Self-service, thanks to the cloud.

Before the movie, we stopped at Red Robin (for an adult beverage). It was self-service via a new fancy restaurant kiosk. So basically, we drank beer and then gave a 20% tip to a droid.
Image result for red robin self service restaurant kiosk

Our local grocery stores all have self-service checkout as a option. Our local CVS and Walgreens drug stores now have “minute clinics” where you can use Telemedicine (powered by IBM Watson) to perform self-service medical exams, diagnosis and even write prescriptions - all without a “live” medical expert.

In our household we are “power users” of Amazon Prime with free 2nd day shipping. We try to buy everything that that is non-perishable (dog food, paper goods, canned goods, soap, etc.) online with convenient, automatic delivery right to our door. Our local grocery store (Kings) is not known for having low prices. Eggs, milk, bread - anything with an expiration date - we go to Kings. You would be crazy to buy batteries, cereal or tuna fish at Kings. All Hail Amazon Prime!  I just learned that the USPS shall start making Sunday deliveries for Amazon Prime, so that is now a 7 days a week service, including holidays. The world of business has invented new verbs in the past few years.  Blockbuster was “Netflixed” <verb> and went out of business. Yellow Cabs have lost business to Uber and Lyft. Formal education and training have now been “Khanned” by Khan Academy.

We shop, research, browse, buy and consume all manner of goods and services via the cloud and the IoT (Internet of Things). Once again: the NRF stated at the show: Job Outlook: +7% (As fast as average). Retail sales workers help customers find the products they want and process customers’ payments. How can job growth in retail be growing at 7% when every day we see technology popping up to do MORE business with LESS people? Why is big business so keen on automating the entire retail process? 

If the number of jobs (Retail Sales Workers) was 4,859,600 in 2015, there is NO WAY this number is going to increase at 7% with all of these self-service tools becoming more and more popular. New Jersey is one of the few states where it is “illegal” to pump your own gas. So, I guess those jobs are still safe - for now.

In the end, what are the things that humans can just do better than apps or kiosks?

Technology lacks flexibility. When we’re interacting with a person and we’re having trouble understanding something, the person can adjust to us. If we’re having a misunderstanding, they can help clarify it. Technology really can’t do either of these things. A person has the ability to delight us or disappoint us. It’s really hard for a technology to ever delight, however, because it’s standardized and is built on a set of rules. But it is possible for technologies to disappoint us.

The video below talks about how the future of retail is “bright” but not for everyone. Retail sales workers who help customers find the products they want and process customers’ payments - your future is very cloudy.

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