The grocery industry could save an estimated $13.8 billion by using artificial intelligence and robotics to create new efficiencies, and that has many store associates worried, according to a Grocery Doppio report released Monday by Incisiv and Wynshop.
The “State of the Industry: How Digital is Reshaping the Grocery Workforce” report revealed that 87% of grocery store associates worry the increase of AI and robotics will result in a reduced labor force.
The survey of 700 grocery associates also showed that the new technology is working, saving associates roughly 25 to 40 minutes per shift.
That’s good news for grocers who continue to face labor shortages. More than two-thirds of those surveyed (68%) say the availability of workers is “difficult” or “very difficult,” according to the report.
The report comes less than a week after the release of Grocery Doppio’s “State of Digital Grocery Performance Scorecard Q3 2023,” where 79% of grocery executives said they plan to increase their tech budgets for artificial intelligence next year.
Meanwhile, digital orders have increased 7% this year, while productivity has dropped 3%. “In this demanding environment, technology is not just beneficial, but essential for grocers to boost efficiency and remain competitive. However, the selection and deployment of new technology needs more input from workers to ensure its adoption and effectiveness,” the report stated.
"Demands on grocers are increasing due to growth in pickup order fulfillment and labor shortages," added Charlie Kaplan, chief revenue officer at Wynshop, in a statement. "By incorporating the innovations and user-centered design principles of apps we use in our everyday lives, tools from retail tech providers can vastly improve fulfillment capabilities for grocery workers."
Although they’re concerned about their jobs being replaced by technological innovations, 87% believe it will help them to do their jobs better. That’s despite the fact that 63% said they have experienced technology failures, and 81% noted it impacted their job performance.
Another 69% of associates said their store’s tech lags behind that of their competitors. Seventy-nine percent said the root of the problem with poor technology at their stores was due to limited real-world testing. Another 71% cited poor connectivity and infrastructure, while lack of associate input and poor training both came in at 59%.
"Digital is changing the grocery experience across channels," said Gaurav Pant, chief insights officer of both Incisiv and Grocery Doppio, in a statement. "Store associates have a front row view of what is needed to ensure a smooth shopping experience and to protect customer loyalty. It is crucial that grocers listen attentively to their associates' insights and empower them with modern technologies and tools to optimize operational efficiency and enrich customer interactions."
The study also revealed a generation gap between employees, with 74% of Gen Z associates reporting dissatisfaction with their store technology, while more than half of Gen X and baby boomer associates reporting that they are satisfied at 53% and 56%, respectively.