Like most modern retail workers, Walmart associates use technology throughout their work day, whether stocking shelves, adjusting merchandising or helping customers on the sales floor. But unlike their industry peers, soon many Walmart associates will have a dedicated company-issued smartphone to use on the job and take home for personal use.
Over the next few months, the nation’s largest private employer will roll out 740,000 custom-configured Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro smartphones to Walmart associates across the U.S. Such a large-scale mobile deployment is unprecedented in the retail industry, and it’s also the single largest enterprise mobility rollout that Samsung has supported to date.
This landmark mobile innovation project is the culmination of many months of collaboration, piloting and app development. From a Samsung perspective, it’s been incredibly exciting to partner with the Walmart team on this journey, and play a key role in shaping the unique, integrated experience they are delivering to their associates.
Samsung’s role in the Walmart Connected Associate initiative
When the Walmart team approached us in the spring of 2020, their stores were busier than ever, and associates were working hard during the pandemic to ensure their communities had a safe way to shop.
Seeing the rapid change in consumer behavior, Walmart’s Global Tech was building a new app in-house to help associates simplify daily tasks, serve customers and plan for life outside of work. This app — which became known as Me@Walmart — would be a single source for improved employee engagement and customer care.
“The vision was to empower every Walmart associate by putting everything they need to serve customers in the palm of their hands,” explained Kellie Romack, Walmart’s vice president for associate experience and customer care.
Romack and her team spent much of the next year in stores, sometimes with Samsung team members in tow. By shadowing associates, learning more about how they work and conducting pilots, we were able to better understand their needs and the tools they use to do their jobs. These insights provided an invaluable feedback loop that allowed Walmart to build a flexible, best-in-class application, and helped Samsung to optimize our ruggedized Galaxy XCover Pro smartphones for Walmart’s unique use cases.
To enable a mobile rollout of this scale, we teamed up with Walmart to use the Samsung Knox Suite to streamline the device deployment and management process, including bulk mobile device management (MDM) enrollment, configuration, device analytics and firmware management. And to ensure business continuity, we put together a Samsung Care+ for Business package including enterprise technical support, accidental damage coverage (for work and personal use) and device repair services.
Security for work use, privacy for personal use
Beyond its sheer scale, another aspect that sets the Connected Associate initiative apart is Walmart’s decision to enable employees to take their devices home.
“We wanted our associates to use this device all day to serve customers, but then also use it as their personal device if they chose,” says Romack.
To enable this, Samsung worked with the Walmart team to customize the XCover Pro devices, creating entirely separate work and personal profiles. “Samsung Knox lets us ensure that work applications stay secure, and that our associates’ personal usage stays totally private,” says Romack.
This is a great example of how Knox is delivering an “open yet secure” mobile environment, with defense-grade protection for data while still enabling employees to use the device how they want to without putting barriers in the way.
How Me@Walmart works
As Romack explains, the Me@Walmart app replaces several disparate systems that associates previously used throughout their work life. Employees will use the new app to view their schedules, communicate with co-workers, and as an additional option to clock in and out. They can also access information for customers with help from Ask Sam — an AI-enabled virtual assistant.
“Ask Sam lets you ask a question or scan an item and instantly find out where the item is and how many we have in stock, right down to the spot on the shelf,” Romack explains. “If the customer wants to order it online, Ask Sam provides a barcode that they can scan on their phone to place an order right there.”
“We’ve seen huge engagement from our associates,” says Romack. “In just one week, we had more than 3 million questions for Ask Sam. About 98 percent of those questions are answered successfully, and we’re continually adding new questions and incorporating other feedback from associates.”
Me@Walmart is more than just a work tool, however. The idea is to have one digital experience that guides prospective associates throughout their employment journey — from the moment they decide they might want to join the Walmart team. That’s why Walmart launched it on public app stores, so potential new hires can use it to learn about opportunities, apply for a job and complete onboarding.
A new way to work
Until now, Walmart associates needed to switch between several devices throughout their shift, including walkie-talkies and bulky handheld computers that were checked out from a locker.
Now, they’ll have their Galaxy XCover Pro in hand and can clock in and do their health screening through the app when they arrive at their store. If they need assistance, they can view the team schedule to see who’s working, tap a co-worker’s name, and initiate a push-to-talk conversation straight from the smartphone by squeezing the physical side key. They can also scan items with the XCover Pro’s camera, which we’ve optimized to work seamlessly with Walmart’s barcode scanning process.
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Zachary Moore, a Walmart store manager in Bentonville, Arkansas, was part of the pilot program this spring. He said the XCover Pro has already made his team more productive, processes more accurate and in-stock inventory management “better and better.” And taking the phones home has been a great perk for associates, several of whom never owned a smartphone before.
“Everyone was very excited to have their own device for work, as well as for personal use,” he says.
Better associate experience, improved customer satisfaction
Improving the frontline worker’s experience leads to a better customer experience, too. In speaking with the Walmart team today, it’s clear that this is just the beginning of their efforts to empower and delight employees, and to lead the industry in leveraging mobility to transform how retail stores operate.
For Samsung, it has been an incredible opportunity to demonstrate our enterprise mobility expertise and solutions, bringing together not just rugged, field-ready mobile devices but also our unique device management and security capabilities and scalable support services.
Romack sums it up perfectly: “Walmart is a 50-year-old company, and progression and innovation is our path forward. We want to make the job easy for our associates, so they can help us better serve customers, whether that’s in-store, online or some combination of the two. And Samsung has been a great partner in helping provide a mobility platform to support the software we’re continuing to build each and every day.”