In a recent interview discussing how AI will change the world, prominent venture capitalist Marc Andreessen was asked about his thoughts on the relevance of retail employees as we progress to more automation and digitization across industries. Here’s an excerpt from his interview:

“Timothy B. Lee

Are they though? Retail stores employ almost 5 million people, and the Labor Department has projected that to grow by 7 percent over the next decade.

Marc Andreessen

That’s right. This is the thing where the luddites just keep getting it wrong. It’s an application of what you said, which is that the scarce thing becomes valuable. Retail clerks are growing.

The other thing that’s been growing for decades is bank tellers. That one might actually finally begin to decline. But bank teller jobs have continued to grow for the last 30 years as ATMs and online banking were rolled out exactly for the reason you said. Which is all the sudden there’s an opportunity to differentiate by providing a higher level of service by providing a person.

Vinod Khosla has written all these stories about how doctors are going to go away. He thinks computers are going to be so much better at diagnosis that there’s no room for doctors any more. And I just think he’s completely wrong. I think the job of a doctor shifts and becomes a higher-level, more important job that pays better as the doctor becomes augmented by smarter computers.

That’s why I’m so optimistic about the economy. That’s why I think the Luddites and the slow-growth people are wrong. We can have tremendous amounts of job creation and have huge productivity improvements. They’re not actually in conflict, despite what everyone thinks right now.”

Through our in-store clients, we’re also noticing more of an emphasis on engaging a store’s staff to play a greater role in creating better experiences for customers. Retail associates will need to go from being ‘button pushers’ who pass transactions through, to becoming informed brand ambassadors who act as the most important customer touchpoint for brands.