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‘4IR’ reshaping retail/consumer, EY execs tell Forum

Kathryn Gramling and Rich Essings

The world is in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution that is bringing dramatic, rapid change to how we shop and work, according to EY research presented at the NEW Executive Leaders Forum, August 2 in Santa Barbara, California.

4IR is being driven by robotics and artificial intelligence, 3D printing, the Internet of Things and autonomous vehicles, according to EY’s Richard Essigs, partner, consumer products and retail market segment, and Kathryn Gramling, partner, consumer products and retail market segment leader.

“Every industrial revolution has a significant impact — positive and negative — on society,” Essigs said.

Robotics are allowing devices to do simple repetitive tasks and AI allows them to interact, analyze and learn, “Think Siri or Alexis,” Essigs said. Uses for 3-D printing are growing and evolving and will have a substantial impact on business. The disruptive Internet of Things — devices, from sensors and smartphones to wearables that talk” to each other over the internet — is changing products, services and business processes. And autonomous vehicles are already being tested in the supply chain.

The 4IR shopper

4IR is driving change in customer expectations, too, Essigs said. Consumers want a personalized experience, convenience and value. “They expect products and services that are most relevant to them,” he noted. “It’s ‘I want it how and when I want it.’ Customers expect quality and affordability. They want an amazing experience and they value transparency and control.”

Essigs shared research predicting that 10 percent of U.S. homes will have a robot by 2020; 500 smart devices will be found in the average home by 2022; and there will be more than 20 million self-driving vehicles by 2025.

Workplace revolution

4IR will dramatically change the workplace, too. Workforce globalization, shifting demographics and skills requirements, a fast-emerging “gig economy” and the need to reinvent the workplace experience are already influencing who does what, when.

“Giggers” either don’t have or don’t want full-time employment, are project-oriented or want a different work style for work/life integration. “These employees will come in just in time, just enough and have just the right amount of expertise you need,” Gramling said.

“Fifty percent of the jobs that will exist 10 years from now don’t exist today.” What’s more, the workforce of the future will expect trust and transparency and more access to information. Gramling said. Good communication skills via email, voice mail and video conference will be even more important.