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What is it that retail is trying to achieve through technology?

DIGITAL_TECHNOLOGY_HUMANS_AIWe see an industry hell-bent on spending billions on robotics, automation, hi-tech gadgetry and cyber telecommunication, which is then sold under the guise of customer experience. In itself an admirable evolution, however, if it is not simulated by a comparable aspiration toward team member development then issues of integrity and agenda abound.

Computerisation can and must only be used as a complementary tool for a trained and valued workforce for it will never replace the unsurpassed technology of the human being. We have all witnessed the astonishing ability of brain and limb by the dedicated and passionate professional to locate, recall or apply without facilitation. Where expertise and dedication draw upon intuition and aptitude to make the right call when theory fails or innovation is required. The skilled personnel who interact with clientele until a satisfactory solution is found and repeat patronage secured.

Beware the impact of artificial intelligence (an oxymoron if ever there was one) for if not administered with due diligence will result in the dumbing down of the brand’s talent pool. A dangerous and imminent threat already affecting society today. Invest time and resource with equality to ensure advancement includes the most vital of aspect for any business – life, be it human, animal or vegetable.

Heed the current political upheavals around the world challenging governments who ignore the will of the people and be cognisant that the same forces are at work against those institutions who choose to avoid the demands of the populace.

Listen first hand to reactions and feedback from the shopfloors, of the effects from high tech paraphernalia, whether perceived or irrational. ‘Our’ instinct is to seek assistance from ‘someone’ before capitulating to ‘something’ and doing it ‘yourself’.

The prevailing attitudinal mindset between AI and HR is reflected in financials where Artificial intelligence is shown as an asset whilst Human Resources are viewed as an overhead and hence a liability.

Electronics may (with a degree of luck) deliver what is expected in accordance with what is invested. People will exceed those expectations multifold including a favourable return on investment. Underperformance is a reflection of culture and leadership, not the individual.

Retail technology must be about the people, for the people, by the people.

A no-brainer so no doubt it may well be left up to the microchip to decide after all.

Dave Farrell is a retailer and writer with three decades of experience on three continents. He can be reached at Freelance Alliance NZ on

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