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06/03/2021

Walmart unveils employee app – to give workers free Samsung phones to use it

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Walmart store employees will have sleek new mobile devices to go along with the chain’s new proprietary corporate app.

The discount giant plans to offer more than 740,000 employees— nearly half its U.S. workforce — a new Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro smartphone, case and protection plan to use — free of charge — by the end of this year. Walmart is giving the phones to employees so that they can use a new app the company is rolling out. Although the employees will only be able to access the app’s work features while they’re on the clock, they will be able use the smartphone as their own personal device if they want. Walmart will not have access to any personal employee data.

Previously, Walmart associates had shared company handheld devices. The retailer did an initial test with the new smartphones earlier this year, with a positive response.  

The new app, “[email protected],” was built in-house by Walmart Global Tech for U.S. store associates. It offers features designed to simplify daily tasks, enhance customer service and help associates plan for life outside of work. 

The idea of the app started as a way to manage associates’ schedules and grew into a single in-store app for U.S. associates. Walmart says it believes [email protected], which includes machine learning, augmented reality (AR), camera vision and artificial intelligence technology, is the first app of its kind in the retail industry.
 
Specific features of the [email protected] app include the ability for associates to view their shifts up to two weeks in advance, check on their upcoming paid time off, and request changes to their schedule. Using geofencing technology, associates can clock in with a tap of a button once they arrive at their store. A “push to talk” feature enables associates to instantly connect with one another.

In addition, the app will provide all associates access to the Ask Sam voice-activated personal assistant. Previously available to some associates as a separate app, the Ask Sam feature enables workers to ask questions to quickly locate merchandise and get answers for customers, as well as look up business metrics.

In the coming months, Walmart will add another feature to [email protected] to help speed up the time it takes stocking associates to get items from the backroom to the sales floor. Instead of scanning each box individually, associates will be able to hold up their device and, using AR, highlight the boxes that are ready to go. Since piloting it last year, Walmart has found this capability takes one-third less time than the previous manual process.

In a corporate blog post, Drew Holler, senior VP, Walmart U.S. people operations, and Kellie Romack, VP, Walmart product and associate experience, described how [email protected] can help associates and customers.

“A great customer experience starts with a great associate experience, and our people will always be a competitive advantage,” said Holler and Romack. “As we make enhancements for our customers, we’re also rethinking how we can help our associates succeed in their roles today and deliver some of what they’ll need for the future. The right tools can be the difference between fast and frustrating.”