The road to automation and frequently overlooked challenges


In the latest episode of Telaid Tech Connect, host Beth Bergmann sits down with store and fulfillment automation leader in retail and grocery, Retail Insight's own Corrie Martin, Strategic Retail Director, to discuss the challenges retailers and grocers face when it comes to automation projects.

They explore common challenges and important considerations when going through the automation planning and implementation process.

Questions discussed:

What are the key processes retailers seek to automate and why?

  • What are the key steps or phases when developing an automation strategy and advancing to rollout?
  • Who are some of the external stakeholders that you need to have aligned with your automation vision and goals?
  • What are some common pitfalls that retailers are facing as they approach automation projects?
  • What should the automation team look like?
  • How do you drive customer adoption?
  • What will automation look like in five years?

Key takeaways:

Critical areas for automation in grocery stores include the storefront, back-of-the-store, and distribution and deployment centers. A candidate is anywhere you want to see more throughput, reduced labor, and increased profitability.

Think of an end-to-end strategy and ensure your end goal is in mind. Consider what you intend to accomplish through automation. Who are the key players you need to sync up with internally or externally? It’s important to think beyond the obvious; consider issues like compliance, legal, and the customer experience.

Look for vendors who can scale and who can help drive the price down over the long term. You want a vendor who is willing to work with others.

One of the most common pitfalls is the financial expectations for these kinds of projects. Typically, when investing in hardware assets in a retail setting, retailers want an ROI of two or three years. It’s essential to set realistic expectations for large-scale automation projects. ROI can take longer than expected. Another common pitfall is failure to think through compliance, regulatory and legal issues, and fire safety.

The automation team needs to include engineers, but it’s also essential to have a strong project management organization supporting you. Product teams are also important.

Some customers feel like automation technologies are being shoved down their throats, but the more exposure they get, the more easily they will adopt it. It’s important to communicate the value and give them opportunities to explore the technologies firsthand. Over time, this drives adoption.

There will likely be growing use of AI and machine learning to provide intelligence that will drive customer and associate behavior. Personalized automation is also going to be a growing trend over the next few years.

The podcast episode is available via Telaid.

New call-to-action

Written by Dave Howard

Passionate about helping retailers and brands maximize the in-store opportunity – still the key driver of retail growth for the foreseeable future. Drawing on his experience in grocery retail, marketing, sales, technology, and entrepreneurship, Dave has been working with grocery retailers and brands since 2014.