Automation is making a huge impact on small businesses and the workforce as a whole. But salespeople aren’t generally concerned about losing jobs to automation.
A recent report on the state of retail sales from Raydiant, a digital signage platform for businesses, found that only 12% of retail sales professionals believe that their jobs will be taken by robots in the coming years. In fact, only 13% of the workers who are still employed are currently worried about their job security as their employers emerge from COVID-19 shutdowns.
Salesperson Jobs Automation – Raydiant Survey
Basically, these numbers indicate the importance of sales associates in a retail environment. Regardless of the economy and the technology available, a human touch is generally still preferred when attempting to close sales with customers in person. Even if automation is employed in other areas, sales associates believe they will still be needed to make the most of the technology.
Raydiant CEO Bobby Marhamat said in an email to Small Business Trends, “Sales associates aren’t worried about being replaced and they shouldn’t be. Throughout history, there have always been doom and gloom headlines about how certain workers will be replaced by technology but the reality is, in most situations, technology ends up being combined with human skills to create new possibilities. That is exactly what we will see here. Sales associates will be empowered by technology to create better experiences and engage more customers.”
Raydiant’s report includes responses from 500 currently-employed sales associates at brick-and-mortar retail locations. Some of the respondents work at large retail chains, while others work at small, independent businesses.
In addition to the interesting notes about automation, the survey also found that 48% of retail workers feel like their employer is taking their health extremely seriously amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And 54.8% of customers feel like the establishments where they shop are taking their health very seriously.
While it’s undeniable that COVID-19 has made a major impact on the retail industry, these findings show that the importance of professional sales staff may be one element that remains even as the industry shifts. The pandemic may cause more businesses to shift their offerings — just as many were already making adjustments due to the rise of online shopping.
But those that stick around post-pandemic are still likely to utilize sales professionals to create an experience that customers will actually remember. Though much has been made about the death of retail and the rise of automation, the idea of creating a positive experience is always important. And individual sales associates can be a big part of that.
Marhamat says, “Before COVID, we were very vocal about our belief that despite the headlines, brick and mortar retail was not dying, it was simply evolving. COVID has hit the industry hard but our belief remains as strong as ever.
Smart, forward-looking operators are evolving and realizing that if they want to get customers in the door, they need to give them an experience worth coming leaving their house for. Customers don’t want to just buy products, they want to have an experience.
Well trained sales associates play a critical role in creating these in-store experiences.”
More in: Small Business Statistics
Sales is a highly interactive industry and will be very difficult for automation to replicate. However, it should be noted that the volume of information available on the internet has already changed sales drastically. Most prospects have gone through a majority of their decision-making process before even talking to a sales rep.