In the fast-paced retail industry, change is constant. And change is good.

As consumer-facing retail technology gets more efficient and user-friendly, shoppers want experiences that offer them convenience and ease. At the same time, a nationwide labor shortage is driving employers to focus more on their employees’ needs and comfort. Businesses need every dependable employee they can get — and they need them to stick around.

In order to compete with e-commerce, and give in-store shoppers the convenience they crave, retailers must use every available tool to maximize efficiency, including robust internal communications that make employees’ jobs easier and more enjoyable. Whether they’re are on the sales floor helping a customer or in the back of the house checking inventory, retail associates need to communicate and collaborate with each other efficiently. Here’s how Microsoft Teams on Samsung rugged smartphones can improve peer-to-peer communications — and in turn create better customer experiences.

One-touch Walkie-Talkie to stay hands-free and heads up

In large retail stores, it can be difficult to locate associates when they’re needed for a specific or urgent task. Microsoft Teams lets colleagues communicate quickly and seamlessly, without loud announcements over an intercom system or a staticky radio. Fashion brand River Island transitioned to Samsung rugged smartphones equipped with Microsoft Teams, and opened up a new world of peer-to-peer communication that maximizes their teams’ efficiency in the store.

“Because of the Samsung price point, suddenly it meant we could put a device into the hands of every store associate,” says Wilkinson. “That is a game changer.”

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Previously, River Island used badge radios with earpieces to communicate with their associates in the field and with Microsoft Teams on Samsung devices, we reduced the number of devices an employee needs to carry. “We had no way to send communications to field staff other than cascade via team managers in the morning,” says River Island IT Director Charlie Wilkinson. “The Walkie-Talkie feature improved how connected our teams feel to each other and to the rest of the business.”

Now, associates can be reached quickly, and can respond to price checks, questions or customer needs in real time. In addition to in-store communications, the Walkie-Talkie feature works anywhere in the world, allowing retailers to bring more associates into the fold. When participants join a channel as a participant, they can then communicate securely using Push-To-Talk (PTT) with other team members — even if they’re on the other side of the world. In addition to saving time and resources, Wilkinson says this has had a massive impact on mobile compliance and security.

Voice-to-text messaging for easy communication

Texting may be an extremely useful communication tool, but it’s not always practical in a retail setting. When customers see employees engrossed in their phones — even if they’re using it for business communication — they may assume the employees are on their personal devices, and feel neglected or annoyed.

With Microsoft Teams voice-to-text messaging, associates can send messages without typing them out. It’s sent like a voicemail, but arrives like a text. The recipient can access the message with the push of a button, without dialing into an automated system or entering a password.

Now, associates can be alerted of any problems, impromptu meetings and more without spending too much time on a screen. When a truck arrives at the store, for example, managers can send the team a quick voice message with specific instructions for inventory management. Voice-to-text also makes it easier to convey context and tone, which can be difficult and time-consuming over text.

Videoconferencing for team building

Another important benefit for River Island is the ability to use Microsoft Teams for training and team building. The communication platform allows management to provide business updates via videoconferencing. “We push training and video content to store associates, which we deliver through Microsoft Teams and Sharepoint on the Samsung devices,” explains Wilkinson. “It is a huge step forward in our ability to share information and direction.”

Associates can attend face-to-face online meetings, and share their screens, files and data resources instantly and securely. The platform also integrates with Office 365 and other Microsoft and partner apps — including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneNote, Delve, Planner and Power BI. Soon, River Island will also deploy shift management through Teams, says Wilkinson. “Now employees have an identity. They can clock in and out on their devices, and we’re no longer chasing around to sign off hours on pieces of paper.”

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Digital platforms that enable real-time communication can upgrade the associate experience, which in turn leads to stronger customer interactions. Samsung rugged smartphones paired with Microsoft Teams add efficiency to retail teams’ collaboration, allowing staff to spend more time where they’re needed most — and helping to reduce staff churn.

“We’ve unlocked a door by equipping staff with their own devices equipped with Microsoft Teams,” Wilkinson says. “It makes the staff feel like part of the River Island family and justifies our investment in experiences that make employees more effective.”

Samsung’s smart retail solutions help you reconnect associates and consumers, your way. Discover more ways to create more connected retail environments. And evaluate your retail mobile initiative with this free assessment to learn how it can better support great customer experiences.

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Davina van Buren

Davina van Buren is a freelance B2B technology writer who specializes in travel, restaurants and hospitality, retail, food tech and cleantech. A former television reporter and consumer magazine editor, she's found her home in the B2B world, which satiates and excites her entrepreneurial spirit. Davina is currently pursuing an Executive MBA in Online Marketing.

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