Target is getting into the nail business. You read correctly. Not nails as in screws and bolts, but fingernails, the humankind you paint and polish. Why would a store that sells food, toys, diapers, clothing and household items get into the beauty business? I assume it’s to make money. At ten dollars per customer, a robot will pipe polish onto your nails in about ten minutes or less, which is significantly less time than it takes to get your nails done in a salon.
To be fair, Target is already in the beauty business. The stores sell makeup, nail polish, skin and hair products among other items. So maybe this is a natural next step.
It’s part of a pilot program to see if busy people who don’t often have time for a manicure or don’t want to pay top dollar are interested in getting their nails done quickly for less money.
The article I read says you slide your finger into a machine where two cameras take about 100 pictures of your nail. Those images are then used to create a 3-D picture that captures the shape and edges of the nail so the robot can determine how fast the machine’s polish-dispenser should move when applying nail polish.
My first reaction to finger painting robots was not positive. I said it will never last because people like me want more than paint on our nails. I like the experience of filing, cuticle trimming, applying hot towels, moisturizer and getting a hand massage. I also look forward to seeing my manicurist and catching up on all that’s transpired during the week. I pay for that.
However, the more I think about this, maybe I need to be more open minded. After all, robots are commonplace just about everywhere. They can wash your floors, vacuum your carpets and even clean your windows. There are robots that will clean your barbeque grill and robots that will cut your grass. During the pandemic when remote learning became the norm, robots helped children read and learn.
We also have Google and Alexa who can put together shopping lists, gather information, tell jokes and text friends and family. Siri can turn television and lights on and off. There’s a robot that uses radio frequencies to tell if someone has fallen and if that person is unconscious, the device will contact a caregiver. No question, technology keeps advancing so perhaps Target will become the salon of the future. Maybe eventually they can expand into acrylics, gels and pedicures. That might bring me in.
But why does a communications coach care if Target is in the nail business?
Because I’m concerned about the future of face-to-face communication. Specifically, as older workers retire and younger workers who have grown up on technology make up the entire workforce, will they understand when to communicate face-to-face versus using technology? While every meeting doesn’t require being together in person or turning cameras on, in many situations face-to-face communication is more effective.
So how do you know? Here is my checklist for determining if communicating in person is the way to go:
- Delivering Bad News
If you have to fire an employee or deliver upsetting news, doing it in person is not only more effective, it’s also kinder when a situation is emotional or volatile. Empathy, tone, eye contact and body language can be missed or misinterpreted across a screen and might inadvertently present you as someone who doesn’t care.
- Building Trust
If you are selling a product, trying to close a deal or position yourself as a resource, in person conversations help you develop relationships and build trust. The age old phrase ‘people buy people’ still holds true. Meeting face to face helps develop an emotional connection.
- New Leaders
It may be difficult and too time consuming for a new leader to travel the globe to meet thousands of employees. Yet, a Forbes survey of over 700 business executives found 8 of 10 prefer face-to-face contact over virtual communications. They said in person meetings help them bond with employees, clients and prospects. It would be beneficial to prioritize which in person meetings are important as you start to build new relationships.
- Encouraging Conversation
It is more difficult to encourage conversation virtually because you can’t always see everyone in the room. That means you can’t read cues or observe body language and facial expressions. It also means people can be reluctant to speak up. Being in the same space can promote greater participation and engagement through exercises that are not as effective over a screen.
- Avoid Misunderstandings
A recent survey concluded 99% of people admit multitasking during virtual meetings. That means they are not always completely attentive and may miss important information which can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. When multitasking, it also takes someone time to refocus attention to what’s taking place in the virtual room.
- Influence and Persuade
It can be much harder to say no to someone’s face than across a screen or in an email. Not only is it easier to engage in person, but you can also assess their reaction to what you’re saying and adapt your words, tone and tactics to how they are reacting.
- Isolation and Loneliness
Even as people return to person environments, many companies are embracing a hybrid model where employees can work both remotely and at the office. Being together in person even from time to time can help remote workers feel less isolated and more involved. Working in person can also help strengthen relationships among colleagues and encourage team building activities.
Face to face communication will never be obsolete, but like online appearances, determining whether to meet in person or virtually is a balancing act. When larger groups of people across different time zones are involved, sometimes remote meetings are the best way to bring everyone together. If you just need to verify a quick fact, ask a question or firm up final details of an event, it isn’t always necessary to see the person to whom you are talking.
As we get more comfortable in our highly remote post pandemic world, looking for opportunities to come together may be more important than ever before to stay connected and involved. Whether speaking in person or remotely, it’s equally important to prioritize communication skills which lead to greater engagement and productivity.
Perhaps getting our nails done by a robot at Target is just the next step in automating what used to be a human job. Maybe the nail bot will do a great job at a lower cost, but I don’t believe robots can replace emotional connections unique to human beings. We humans crave human touch. Only we can nail that!