Tools to Address Labor Shortages

6 Retail Tech Solutions for Addressing Labor Shortages

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The U.S. labor shortage has been well documented, even if its causes are still up for debate. The lack of workers is creating supply chain disruptions and leading to reductions in store hours. With no end in sight, many retail brands are searching for alternative solutions.

Retail technology platforms that may have been overlooked before the pandemic are now coming into focus as businesses begin to understand their true value. Using a combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, and big data, a number of startups have started positioning their platforms as possible solutions to the labor shortages that retailers and restaurants are facing in 2021. Mobile ordering kiosks, autonomous checkout systems, and even machine vision algorithms are all being used to help businesses greet customers, restock shelves, and even clean messy areas with more efficiency.

Here are six companies to watch.

6 Retail Tech Solutions to Address Labor Shortages

1. Grabango

Designed primarily for grocery and convenience stores, Grabango is an automated checkout solution that claims to improve operational efficiency and increase sales. Customers who’ve downloaded a special app can shop as they normally would while Grabango’s system automatically adds up the items in their carts. Rather than waiting at a cash register, customers scan their apps in the self-checkout line, and a receipt for their purchases arrives in the app. By reducing congestion at the checkout, Grabango is able to streamline operations, and it can be used to combat shoplifting.

2. AiFI

AiFi makes retail stores autonomous, with decreased reliance on store associates for day-to-day operations. The startup develops autonomous, checkout-free shopping experiences that can be integrated into existing stores or deployed in new developments. AiFi uses shopper behavioral data and store analytics to increase operational efficiencies, along with contactless checkout systems to make shopping safer and faster. Backend store analytics help managers track inventory without relying on human associates. AiFi also generates to-do lists for staff, so employees can focus on providing the kind of service that drives real revenue.

3. Caper

Caper’s plug-and-play products make it easier for stores to implement autonomous retail experiences. Caper Cart is a shopping cart that uses AI and basket cameras to automatically detect items as they’re added, with no barcode scanning required. Caper Carts also feature interactive display screens, so customers can see basket-based recommendations and nearby details. Because many of these features are meant to replicate the human interactions between customers and store associates, retailers using Caper’s integrated products are able to minimize the impact of labor shortages and also collect more insightful data about their customers.

4. Snackpass

Designed primarily for the food industry, Snackpass uses technology to help brands deliver better customer experiences. Kiosks, QR codes, and mobile apps are all used to facilitate more streamlined ordering processes, with real-time sales dashboards and upselling capabilities that make it convenient for customers to add extra items to their orders. Snackpass says its kiosks decrease customer wait times by as much as 80% and help businesses operate more efficiently with reduced labor costs.

5. Homebase

Homebase’s scheduling software helps busy retailers manage employee schedules and combat rising labor costs. Store managers can make adjustments to employee schedules on the fly, which is especially important now with so many workers changing jobs at increasing frequency. Onboarding, HR, compliance, and time tracking all happen within the unified app, as well. Detailed cost reporting and labor forecasting tools help managers stay on top of labor costs and easily spot new trends. Homebase’s tools are also used to prevent early clock-ins and stop issues like time theft and labor leakage.

6. AWM

AWM has developed a “frictionless” checkout system that can be used to retrofit existing spaces or integrated into new builds. Depending on the retailer’s preference, AWM’s checkout system can be set up so customers initiate transactions at the entry gate using personal QR codes from an app or using facial recognition. Strategically placed cameras and deep learning models detect humans in video feeds, and shoppers are tracked throughout the store using anonymous tracking with random IDs. Product takes and puts are tracked based on data from AWM’s Product Mapper software, and customers are charged via their digital wallets as they exit the store.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.