Walmart isn’t sitting idly by and letting the Amazon reap all the automated retail glory. In order to grow its already formidable online presence, the big box store is testing out a giant, self-service kiosk. In theory, it will allow customers to pick up their groceries quickly and without any human interaction.
The massive kiosk is being tested out in the parking lot of a supercenter in Warr Acres, Oklahoma. Customers simply select their groceries on Walmart’s website, and their order is packed and shipped to the vending machine-style kiosk. The facility is open 24 hours a day, and customers are given a personal code that grants them access to their purchase. That means people can retrieve their goods from the 20-by-80 foot kiosk’s fridges and freezers at any time of day or night. Walmart claims their groceries will appear in less than a minute.
This automation helps Walmart stay competitive with the likes of Amazon and Fresh Direct, and speeds up shopping for customers. But it’s a foreboding prospect for Walmart employees — and the U.S. as a whole. According to a recent survey by Price Waterhouse Cooper, robots will handle more than 38 percent of jobs in the U.S. workforce by 2030. Per Fortune, the jobs most likely to automated are “in the transportation and storage (56%) sectors, as well as manufacturing (46%) and retail (44%).” While the prospect of picking up packages sounds pretty nice — especially if you’re a parent looking to save time and not spend nine hours a week wheeling a squeaky shopping cart around a grocery store — it’s hard not to look at the kiosk without wondering what this means for the future of workers. And considering the company’s 1.4 million employees make up approximately one percent of the U.S. workforce, this move could lead to a sizeable shift.