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Samsung builds a more mobile device-centered supply chain

Mobile devices like Samsung's Z Fold3 (left) and Z Flip3 (right) are making the retail supply chain smoother (Photo: Samsung)

The supply chain never really ends anymore. In the past, once a product reached the sales floor, the journey was completed –– that was the point of sale.

But today, there are a bevy of purchasing and fulfillment options available, services like e-commerce, buy online pick up in store, curbside pickup and same-day delivery. The final handoff of products is increasingly being handled by retail store associates and backroom workers, who are finding themselves in the thick of a muddled supply chain.

“The store is everywhere,” Joe Hasenzahl, senior manager of business development at Samsung (OTCPK: SSNLF), told Modern Shipper.

Hasenzahl heads up Samsung’s B2B Mobility for Retail department, where he’s coming up with innovative ways to loop retail employees into the supply chain using mobile devices, like the ​​Galaxy S21 or the ZFlip 3, which doubles as a phone and a tablet.

“When you give associates mobile devices, you’re giving them the data they need to do their jobs,” Hasenzahl explained.

With mobile devices feeding them data from the palms of their hands, store associates can keep track of inventory, pricing and even customer movements throughout the store. That in turn allows them to find products without having to scramble, whether they’re fulfilling an online order at the curb or helping a customer find an item on the shelves. And as many retailers contend with staffing shortages, doing more with less might just give them an edge.

“You’ve got fewer associates on your sales floor, but you can give them the information they need to be effective,” said Hasenzahl. “That’s where mobility comes into play.”

You’ve got fewer associates on your sales floor, but you can give them the information they need to be effective.

Joe Hasenzahl, senior manager of business development, samsung

At the same time, Samsung’s devices are collecting information about the associate journey, giving store operators access to data like the apps they use most, the number of steps they take per day, and in which zones of the store they spend the most time. Using that information, retailers can better organize the associates who manage their in-store supply chains to make fulfillment frictionless.

“You come into the environment and you clock in on your mobile device. Then, you get your task assignment on your mobile device that gets updated as you progress through the day, depending on the needs of that retail environment,” Hasenzahl explained.

While many retailers are deploying mobile devices on their store floors, Samsung’s tech is also suited to fit backroom and warehouse environments. The devices are outfitted with object recognition and machine vision technology that identifies and scans bar codes, but unlike typical scanners, they can multitask.

“When the device is shown a whole wall of bar codes, it can identify the one that the associate’s looking for. But while it’s doing that, it’s simultaneously collecting data about every other bar code it disregarded,” said Hasenzahl. “Is that product in the right spot? Are we low on product? Is that tag wrong? All these things can be done while you’re simultaneously searching for a product.”

But that’s not the only way Samsung is using tracking to elevate the retail supply chain. To get a holistic view of how customers, associates and backroom workers are using physical space, Samsung offers FastSensor, an AI-powered SaaS ecosystem that traces and analyzes movement in and around the store.

The solution intermittently pings customers’ mobile devices to pinpoint their location, and it allows retailers to break up their stores by zones to see which customers spent the most time in which areas, as well as what they bought. That kind of visibility can supply valuable insights about sales and conversion rates by zone, helping associates build the most effective layout possible.

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FastSensor also brings visibility to the area surrounding the store. It can track devices walking on the sidewalk or moving through the parking lot, providing a view of the total addressable traffic in front of the store. It also acts as a door counter, tracking how many customers crossed the store threshold, and it can even distinguish between shoppers and delivery drivers, something most retail technologies can’t yet do.

“Then once we understand that you’re a real customer, we now can understand how long you’re in a certain area, how many are in the area, how you converted in the store, how long your total shop time is,” Hasenzahl’s colleague Parrish Chapman explained to Modern Shipper. “And then we can understand how digital signage drove your behaviors by directing you in the physical environment.”

Chapman, Samsung Electronics America’s director of enterprise retail sales key accounts, is also interested in building a more adaptable in-store supply chain, but he’s doing it through an array of consumer-facing digital signage products to help consumers do more on their own without needing a store associate to help them in the first place.

“If you want to have a personal shopping experience, which is really growing right now in retail … these mobile devices work for digital signage really well,” Chapman said. “So you can extend that experience from mobile to our displays and really have less friction in the process.”

Associates can use their mobile devices to update Samsung’s catalog of digital and LED displays on the fly if they want to share things like new product arrivals or updated prices. At the same time, customers can use their mobile devices to engage with signage, or they can interact with it directly.

Chapman shared the example of digital signage Samsung provided to mattress retailer Saatva:  “We have a 13-inch display in front of every mattress. It’s interactive, and the customer can educate and shop on their own, or they can involve an associate if they want. And then they can order right in front of the mattress and have it delivered to their house.”

We were able to take over all of the technology and IT aspects and let [retailers] do what they do best: run their business.

Parrish Chapman, director of enterprise retail sales key accounts, Samsung

If a customer would rather carry the product out of the store, digital signage can assist with that too. The Samsung Kiosk is the company’s digital display offering for the point of sale, providing a contactless checkout option that doesn’t necessitate pulling an associate from the store floor.

The company is even beginning to mix elements of social commerce into its signage through a partnership with Sprinklr, a unified customer experience management platform that partners with some of the largest brands, including Microsoft, Verizon and McDonald’s.

All of Samsung’s digital signage products are hosted by a cloud-powered software called MagicINFO that allows them to edit and update content, manage data, and troubleshoot devices. Whereas a typical cloud-hosted network can take up to six months to set up in a large store and runs on store Wi-Fi, Samsung’s solution takes about two weeks and can run on an LTE network.

The software even provides remote access to Samsung’s hardware for repairs and resets, with the company running a 24-hour network operations center that monitors and troubleshoots devices.

“We were able to take over all of the technology and IT aspects and let [retailers] do what they do best: run their business,” Chapman emphasized.

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MagicINFO provides a crucial bridge between Samsung’s retail mobile devices and its digital signage solutions. With the two components operating on the same network, each can feed into the other to enable a new gear for retail supply chain agility.

“Any place in the store becomes a data point that can influence content, whether it’s based on proximity, or the number of people in front of the display, or updating inventory levels so that you’re not advertising a product on the digital signage that happens to be out of stock,” Hasenzahl explained.

With data being captured in real time and fed into MagicINFO, both associates and consumers get an overarching view of product availability, prices and more, turning the journey from point A to point B into more of a jaunt.

“We’re capturing this data in real time as the associates are doing their jobs and updating customer-facing signage with that dataset. It makes the retailer more efficient,” Hasenzahl added. “It’s taking advantage of data you’re creating on the fly to create better experiences for your associates and for the customers.”

But Samsung still sees room to innovate. The company is looking at introducing an advertising program for MagicINFO, through which brands can sell ads in stores to be displayed on digital signage.

FastSensor is another product that will be getting more attention: “Another component that we’re adding this year is related to shrinkage. So for example, if we want to tag expensive barbecue grills or tool rental equipment, we can monitor where they are in the store and when they leave the parking lot. Then when it returns, [FastSensor] automates the check-in,” Chapman said.

Samsung is also looking into making the point of sale more mobile. While it already offers kiosks for contactless checkout, the company wants to bring cash wraps into the aisle and allow store associates to complete orders from their mobile devices without having to install new infrastructure.

Chapman said Samsung’s planned and current offerings have so far been well received by employees. The company has recorded rising employee net promoter scores –– a measurement of worker satisfaction –– among its clients.

“If you have the best mobility and great display and you can interact, as an employee, you feel empowered to have that data,” he said.

“It’s been very exciting that we can support our retail and warehouse clients with these solutions,” Chapman added. “We were ready. And I think it really did allow us to capture and move quickly to support everybody.”

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Jack Daleo

Jack is a staff writer for FreightWaves and Modern Shipper covering topics like last mile delivery and e-commerce fulfillment. He studied at Northwestern University, majoring in journalism with a certificate in integrated marketing communications. Previously, Jack has written for Backpacker Magazine and enjoys travel, the outdoors, and all things basketball.