On June 3rd, Walmart announced that they will provide 740,000 Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro rugged smartphones to retail associates in conjunction with the launch of Walmart’s new Me@Walmart app. Representing Samsung’s largest enterprise deal in the US so far, this new partnership will provide nearly half of Walmart’s domestic store population with a smartphone device by the end of 2021. This deal is significant for a number of reasons and validates trends VDC has been following and reporting on.
Serving as an exclusive destination filled with features designed to simplify daily tasks, better serve customers, and help employees plan for life outside of work, the Me@Walmart app will serve as the single in-store app for US associates. Using their Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro smartphones, associates can compete a variety of tasks including viewing schedules up to two weeks in advance, clocking in to work on their mobile device utilizing geofencing technology, and scanning product inventory. Highlighted features also include Push-to-Talk communication, enabling associates to connect with each other instantly, both promoting teamwork, and increasing responsiveness, and “Ask Sam”, a voice activated personal assistant that saves time by allowing associates to ask the Me@Walmart app questions in order to locate merchandise, look up metrics, and get answers to customer inquiries.
One of the several aspects of this deal that stands out is the scale of the deployment and the emphasis on a 1:1 deployment model – i.e. not the more traditional one to many shared device model. Although this deal was initiated pre-pandemic, the impact of COVID is clear. According to research VDC conducted in the second half of 2020, 37% of retail respondents indicated that they would “most likely” be switching to a 1:1 model. While this may have been initially motivated by concerns regarding sharing devices among workers during a pandemic and the potential for cross-contamination, the real catalyst is the transformation reshaping retail and the need for connected “super associates”. In fact, according to VDC’s research, 32% of retailers claim that over the past year they have aggressively accelerated the pace at which they are pursuing and rolling out mobile solutions for their workforce.
Other aspects of the deal that are noteworthy is the device itself and its functionality. The retail sector is no stranger to the debate between purpose-built ruggedized mobile computers (with dedicated data capture capabilities) and standard off the shelf “consumer devices”. Motivated by the intuitiveness of the interface and sleeker ergonomic design, many of the largest retailers have experimented with consumer mobile devices – primarily iOS-powered – to support their store associates. However, many of those deployments failed due to a variety of reasons, but mostly because the devices were not intended to be used in this way (i.e. lifecycle support issues). Since those early trials purpose-built device OEMs have invested significant R&D resources to close the gap between the ergonomic design and intuitiveness of their hardware and software and consumer smartphones. Leveraging the Android OS platform, the purpose-built rugged handheld computer market has experienced a significant resurgence over the past three to four years.
What Samsung is attempting with its enterprise-focused portfolio – including the XCover Pro – is to bridge both segments and develop devices at a price point that opens the door for substantial scale to enterprise mobility opportunities. For this strategy to work Samsung’s efforts need to obviously extend beyond the device, which they are doing through the KNOX security and management platform and close integrations with Scandit for SW-based scanning and Microsoft Teams for PTT integration (note: neither Scandit nor Microsoft were mentioned in the Walmart announcement so it is unclear what technology Walmart is actually leveraging to support PTT and scanning). In addition, it will be interesting to see how support services will be addressed for this substantial rollout.
While the XCover Pro is clearly not a traditional ruggedized mobile computer and does not offer the integrated/dedicated data capture capabilities required for many applications, Walmart’s endorsement and investment will capture the attention of enterprise mobility investment decision makers in the retail sector and beyond.
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