Will Walmart's robots make investors money?

Walmart's (NYSE: WMT) aisle-scanning robots, which have been undergoing testing at a handful of locations, are headed to 50 stores. The big-box retailer likely won't see any immediate benefits, but investors could have a lot to be happy about with the expanded trials.

What the robots do

The robots, developed by start-up Bossa Nova Robotics, have a simple task that has nothing to do with jazzy Brazilian music. The machines autonomously navigate around stores and scan shelves with a tower fitted with cameras.

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Type of jobs available at Walmart

Best Jobs at Walmart

Even though Walmart has a reputation as a low-paying and demanding employer, there are some jobs that pay very well and report high employee satisfaction — especially if you're in management.

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1. Store Manager

Store manager is one of the best jobs you can land at Walmart, according to Joni Holderman, a professional resume writer and founder of Thrive! Resumes. "Few people realize that Walmart store managers can earn $150,000 to $250,000 per year in salary and bonus — if their store achieves all its performance targets," she said.

A former Walmart store manager who worked for the company for more than eight years wrote in a review on Glassdoor that Walmart has a "great compensation package," and gives you "a chance to work with a diverse group of associates and customers."

Although employee satisfaction rates are high and the pay is great, this job does not come without its stressors. Store managers run the show: supervising all employees, meeting financial goals, enforcing regulations — which includes firing people — delegating work, tracking inventory, analyzing sales data, processing payroll and coordinating merchandise shipments. It's a big job, but it comes with a big paycheck.

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2. Assistant Manager

Walmart assistant managers average $47,538 a year, which is right on target for the national average salary, according to Glassdoor salary data. If you factor in bonuses and additional compensation, the average pay increases to $58,583 a year.

Assistant managers must have at least two years of college experience, or one year of retail and one year of supervisory experience. Job duties include meeting store sales and financial performance goals, ensuring compliance with procedures, managing and supervising associates and enforcing customer service guidelines.

Although this might seem like a lot of responsibility for an assistant role, it's an excellent opportunity to gain experience and move up your career ladder. One former assistant manager in Amarillo, Texas, wrote in a review on Glassdoor that Walmart is a "great place to learn a skill and grow your resume, or grow with the company." 

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3. Shift Manager

Shift managers at Walmart make an average base salary of just over $65,000, according to Glassdoor. The total compensation jumps to an average of more than $78,000 after factoring in the $19,528 cash bonus, $3,471 stock bonus and other financial rewards.

A shift manager in Las Vegas, Nev., wrote on Glassdoor that the "salary for management is great," and a former shift manager in Big Spring, Texas, wrote that Walmart is a "good company for beginners," they "work with your schedule" and "teach you the basics."

Shift managers have complained on Glassdoor about long days, difficult work-life balance and heavy workload associated with this job, but this job topped the list because there are great advancement opportunities for those who might not have a degree, and the pay is well above average. 

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4. Pharmacy Manager

The typical pharmacy manager at Walmart makes about $142,000 a year, according to Glassdoor data. When bonuses, like an average annual cash bonus of nearly $22,000, are factored in, pharmacy managers make closer to $160,000 a year.

Pharmacy managers are responsible for driving sales and increasing profit in Walmart pharmacies and over-the-counter areas. They must ensure confidentiality of customer information and assigned records, model and enforce the company's customer service guidelines and oversee and implement community outreach programs. This job isn't just for anyone off the street, either — Walmart pharmacy mangers must hold a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy or PharmD and carry a pharmacy license.

A pharmacy manager in Albuquerque, N.M., wrote on Glassdoor, "I like this job better than any other retail I've been at." Other current and former employees said they sometimes face stressful and busy environments, long hours and demanding workloads. Still, this job is one of the best at Walmart because of its stability, good benefits, room for career advancement and excellent compensation.

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5. Order Filler

Order fillers at Walmart make an average of about $38,000 a year with an average base pay of $18 an hour, according to Glassdoor. There's also additional annual compensation, like a $2,798 average cash bonus, $1,267 stock bonus, $1,141 profit-sharing and $220 commission-sharing.

Order fillers work out of Walmart distribution centers and are responsible for moving merchandise onto the company's fleet of delivery trucks and keeping the warehouse organized. This can involve working off-hours and operating machinery in a fast-paced environment. An order filler from Buckeye, Ariz., said on Glassdoor "everything about this job is good" and that Walmart is a "great place to start a career."

Order fillers are 21 percent happier than other Walmart employees, according to job search and review website Career Bliss. A former order filler from Brundidge, Ala., reported to Indeed that the pay and benefits were good, but the job had "long hours." Despite the hours, this position made the list of top jobs at Walmart because it's a relatively high-paying entry-level position that doesn't require interacting with disgruntled customers or managing employees.

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Worst Jobs at Walmart

These five Walmart jobs made the list of the worst due to the largest pay gaps compared to management, high levels of stress and little room for career advancement.

Click through to find out which Walmart jobs are the worst. 

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1. Cashier

Cashiers at Walmart are responsible for scanning, bagging and loading merchandise at the checkout. Walmart cashier hourly wages range from $7 to $15, with the average falling at $9 an hour — making it one of the lowest-paying jobs at the company. As one former employee on Glassdoor put it, the pay is "not bad out of high school, but hardly enough to live past that."

Employees also say the job entails a lot of stress, is very physically demanding and is subject to hours getting cut during slow seasons, according to reviews on Glassdoor. Cashiers also must achieve the "Item Per Hour" and "Scanning" percentage goal, which can contribute to the demands and stress associated with this role.

One Glassdoor reviewer listed out his least favorite parts of the job, including "Hard to work for low pay, hours can be horrible especially for cashiers, late nights and early mornings…" Cashiers at Walmart also face monotonous tasks, long lines of customers and, as one former Walmart cashier in Junction City, Kan., wrote, "The customers are not always the happiest of people." 

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2. Inventory Control Specialist

Inventory control specialists at Walmart work mostly in the back room of the store. They are responsible for all inventory that comes in and out, as well as transporting merchandise to the sales floor using forklifts or pallet jacks. Based on 106 Glassdoor salary reports from Walmart employees, the typical inventory control specialist hourly rate is $10. When factoring in bonuses and additional compensation, the pay only increases to $20,259 a year.

Inventory control specialists are 34 percent less happy than other employees at Walmart, according to Career Bliss. Employees in this role report they feel understaffed and overworked, and that work-life balance is "severely skewed," according to Glassdoor reviews. The hours can be long and late, and one former employee said on Glassdoor that they kept the team "stocking past 1 a.m. because they didn't have enough people that night." 

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3. Greeter

In addition to meeting Walmart customers at the store's entrance, greeters also assist customers in getting shopping carts, providing store directions or other customer service duties. That might seem easy, but it's important to note that greeters are also responsible for identifying potential security threats, or shoplifters, and cleaning floors and restrooms.

"Greeter may be one of the worst jobs at Walmart, when you realize that they are really security guards," said Holderman. "Studies show there is less shrinkage — meaning shoplifting — at retail stores where customers are greeted at the door."

In addition to the risky environment and stressful job responsibilities, the pay for Walmart greeters ranges from just $7 to $11 an hour, the lowest salary range on this list. One current employee also said on Glassdoor there's "no room for advancement if you can't stand on your feet for an entire 8 hour shift" and that raises are only 40 to 50 cents a year.

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4. Sales Associate

Based off more than 1,500 employee reviews, Glassdoor reported that Walmart's current sales associates earn just $9 an hour, which equates to about $18,720 a year. Not only is the pay low, but sales associates also have some unpleasant job responsibilities, including cleaning all areas of the store, performing routine maintenance on machines and other equipment, retrieving abandoned store carts, bagging customer purchases and stocking merchandise.

One sales associate in Elkton, Md., said on Glassdoor the atmosphere is "friendly," but chances of promotion are "slim." Another sales associate in Clinton Township, Mich., does not like "dealing with rude customers and rude people." Given the low pay, few opportunities for advancement and unsavory job duties, this job ranks as one of the worst on this list. 

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5. Customer Service Manager

This is the one management role that made the list of worst jobs at Walmart. In addition to making just $24,094 a year, Walmart's customer service managers are required to fulfill a wide range of duties and hold a lot of responsibility.

A customer service manager spends a great deal of time enforcing proper operations in the store, according to its job description. This includes getting change for cashiers, preparing cash registers and auditing registers for shortages. They must also handle customer complaints and concerns, as well as training employees.

Glassdoor reviewers who worked as customer service managers said they were overworked, understaffed and underpaid. A current customer service manager in Port Orange, Fla., wrote, "Hours are cut to the bone constantly and the store is chronically under-staffed, even during holidays and peak sales hours."

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After gathering and processing the data, the robot will then inform a store associate if an item needs restocking, if tags are missing, or if prices are marked incorrectly. The idea is to automate tedious shelf-auditing tasks that employees may not have time for.

What's the deal, Walmart?

The retailer says no employees are losing their jobs over this move. That's probably accurate at this point as the robots are still in the test phase. But why would Walmart shell out extra money "hiring" a workforce of machines if it doesn't plan to lay off any humans?

Walmart says store employees have time to scan shelves only about twice a week. That monotonous task can be delegated to the machines, which Walmart says can do the work quicker and more accurately than humans. That frees up time for store associates to keep shelves stocked and help customers, which does make the company money.

Keeping inventory priced correctly is also important, as is making store operations smarter and more efficient. Data is powerful, and can help traditional stores optimize their operations. In Walmart's case, the robots are part of a broader effort to beat back digital retailers like Amazon, which employs thousands of robots at its warehouses to assist with order fulfillment.

Tech investors, rejoice

It remains to be seen if a deal with Bossa Nova Robotics actually makes money for Walmart, or if the world's largest chain is still trying to play catch-up to the tune Amazon is singing. However, besides robotically enhanced retailer stocks, there's another way for investors to take advantage here.

Technology is infiltrating the economy as a whole, and robotics in retail is just one example. According to technology researcher McKinsey & Company, things like optimized store layouts, self-checkout, and "smart" customer relationship management could have an annual impact of up to $1.2 trillion by the year 2025. Rather than picking which traditional store will weather the storm the best, investing in tech companies is the best route to take.

As noted above, Bossa Nova Robotics is still a start-up, but other robotics manufacturers that investors can buy include FANUC and ABB. Then there are the chipmakers that make robotics possible. Ambarella, for example, makes chips enabling computer vision -- a technology crucial to some robotics applications that tries to mimic the human eye. All of that collected data also needs to be processed, so cloud computing investment is another option. Cloud computing provider VMware is a partner of Bossa Nova Robotics in helping retailers optimize their businesses with technology.

While Walmart's new robots and other digital transformations could help the retailer remain relevant in today's world, investors looking to cash in on the trend should look to the robots themselves, or more specifically what's inside them.

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