Your Technology is Only as Strong as its Human Link

At this point in time, trying to live without technology is easier said than done. Technology has so greatly impacted our lives, that it is almost inescapable. In retail, you will be run over without properly utilizing technology. However, interacting with people is a core function in retail environments. This begs the question of how much technology is too much technology? How do you maintain a balance between human and machine?

Have you ever called a company’s customer service line hoping to quickly solve an issue, but instead, were taken through endless robotic options? We’ve all been there. It can be so frustrating, especially when all you wanted to do was speak with an actual person. Technology in retail can be the same way. Some companies embrace technology full force. They chose machine learning options, artificial intelligence, etc., and then implement it and cross their fingers hoping that it’s doing its job. But like all technology, things can go awry quickly.

On the flip side, if you implement no technology whatsoever and rely on old school methods, you’re most likely going to miss something that leads to growth. So how do you manage the best of both worlds? By implementing superior technology while empowering real people on how best to manage that technology of course!

The first challenge is choosing which technology to implement. With so many buzzwords and retail jargon flying around, it can be hard for retailers to distinguish what really is the best of the best. AI, machine learning, optimization… what does it all mean? Also, how do you know what will work best for your business? What works for one retailer might not be a good fit for another. Each retail business, and even store, has unique needs based on their location, customer base, and other factors. The cookie-cutter approach just won’t work here. There are a few key points retailers should search for when deciding which technologies to implement.

First, while they have become buzzwords, machine learning and AI tools do have their place. You want to start with a company that not only offers these tools but also understands that there needs to be a balance between human and machine. With the right combination of human and machine powers, you can be successful in retail without sacrificing the human element. Many solution providers offer tools, provide you with a standardized package, and send you off with little explanation or support. Is that what’s best for your business? Or is the better route to inherit a tool and continue to evolve it, question it and make it do what’s best for your business?

Second, retailers need to find a partner who will not only understand their needs, but also offer solutions tailored to them. Some providers are far better at this than others. Retailers need to ask questions to determine if a solution provider is capable of being flexible and creating custom solutions that will get results.

Third, retailers want clarity when they are dealing with technology. Technology solutions solve major problems. That makes them complex, which can be overwhelming. Find a provider who can explain what their service does and demonstrate how effective it is without all of the tech jargon thrown in. Product specs, capabilities and graphs do matter. However, if a company hides behind their hardware and software specs, it can make the solution and its potential results seem too ambiguous.

Technology never gets tired. Humans do. Technology works 24/7/365. Humans can’t. Let’s remember that technology isn’t better than humans in every respect. In fact, humans invented all forms of technology. When real people are equipped to work with technology, retailers and consumers will benefit.

Like a personal shopper, 4R provides clarity to our customers on which direction is the best and what you will gain from it. We don’t just throw you the tools and disappear. We navigate with you. To find out more information, check out our Value Creator Suite.