Updated 3/3/2023: Since this blog was originally published, we have decided to pause development of deploy Outlook at scale, audience targeting in Outlook, and group mailboxes. Please refer to the Microsoft 365 roadmap for information on forthcoming feature releases.
The retail industry has changed dramatically over the past few years due to supply chain disruptions, economic fluctuations, and changing customer demands. As retailers experience growing pressure to do more with less, their resilient frontline employees have kept them afloat. From stocking inventory and assisting customers to delivering holiday orders, retail workers have been a cornerstone of the sector’s success.
Now more than ever, leaders need innovative digital tools for their frontline workforce that help improve communication, operations, and workplace culture. In fact, one-third of all frontline workers say they do not have the right technological tools to do their jobs effectively; that number rises to 41 percent for non-management positions.1
To help organizations close this gap, we continue to invest in Microsoft Teams and other Microsoft 365 offerings, like Outlook and SharePoint. This week at the National Retail Federation (NRF) 2023, we are announcing new solutions designed to enable easier communication, streamlined operations, connected employee experiences, and enhanced security for shared devices.
Check out a preview of the latest Microsoft 365 and Teams innovations that we’ll be showcasing at NRF here.
Connect store teams with modern communication
Work Trend IndexLearn more
We know that effective communication is critical for your frontline in an era of changing work patterns. Without the right technology, store associates are often left feeling disconnected and underappreciated, which may lead to high employee turnover. Sixty-one percent of retail workers say messages from leadership don’t make it to them, and 31 percent believe their voice isn’t being heard when communicating about workplace issues.1
To help store associates stay connected, we’re enhancing Teams Walkie Talkie with two new features: prompt to join and transmission usage report. With prompt to join, Walkie Talkie will automatically select the channel for the user, if the user is member of one single channel. Meanwhile, IT admins will be able to get a downloadable report to view overall usage and call quality. Prompt to join is generally available, and the transmission usage report feature will begin rolling out in February 2023.
All these Walkie Talkie enhancements will be available on devices from our industry-leading partners including Honeywell, Samsung, and Zebra Technologies. Each device comes with dedicated buttons to enable direct push-to-talk communications, removing the need for separate bulky radios.
One example of a brand that has capitalized on the benefits of modern collaboration tools is L’Oréal. The global beauty company needed a way to help its frontline beauty advisors in retail locations better connect to the business and each other. L’Oréal rolled out Teams, empowering the beauty advisors to share insights from the shop floor with headquarters in real-time, build a sense of belonging to individual brands, and deliver exceptional customer experiences.
“I’m better connected with other beauty advisors now that we all use Teams.”—Jenifer Hart, Multi-brand Beauty Advisor, L’Oréal Luxe.
Similarly, Ahold Delhaize, the fourth largest retail brand globally, is leveraging Teams to empower frontline workers in their Alfa Beta grocery store chain based in Greece. Before adopting Teams, their store workers faced barriers to real-time communication and often wasted time waiting for the information they needed. They now use Teams for their 300 store managers which allows for real-time communication from their stores to headquarters and other managers.
“Teams allows different departments to communicate information to stores via the same communication channel, ultimately increasing our collaboration and productivity.”—Timos Valsamakis, a manager of the Vrilissia store, Alfa Beta.
Unify your organization’s communications and business processes onto one secure platform.
Reimagine retail store operations so employees can focus on customers
Many frontline workers still rely on outdated tools and manual updates to stay in sync and accomplish their work.
At NRF, we’ll showcase how to reimagine your store operations with out-of-the-box applications, such as Shifts, Tasks, and Updates in Microsoft Teams. Organizations also can leverage Microsoft Power Apps to create customizable low-code apps that align with your business processes and empower store associates.
At Microsoft Ignite 2022, we introduced our partnership with UKG, a leader in human capital and workforce management with over 70,000 customers in 150 countries. We’ve co-engineered the Teams Shifts connector for UKG Dimensions to give frontline workers the ability to view and accept open shifts, request time off, clock in and out, and more. The connector is now generally available and joins our ecosystem of Shifts connectors along with Blue Yonder and Zebra Technologies.
The Updates app in Microsoft Teams is an out-of-the-box app that allows store associates to complete store opening and closing checklists in the flow of work. Coming January 2023, we’re adding deep link sharing to the Updates app so your team can quickly create a link for a specific update and share it with anyone.
To help store associates save time, organizations can now automate their workflows through triggers and actions with the Updates Power Automate connector, which will be generally available in February 2023.
Before launching Teams for retail, employees at River Island, the London-based fashion brand, used a multiple-step process to allocate tasks from the corporate level to the shop floor. Leadership wanted to shift to a more efficient, accurate approach, so River Island switched to using Microsoft Tasks in Teams for a streamlined, consistent process.
“Using Tasks makes things more seamless for everyone involved. I can delegate tasks and check completion easily.”—Kerrie Toll, Store Leader, River Island King’s Lynn.
Task management in Microsoft 365
Access and update your tasks as you work, no matter which app you’re using.
Deliver a transformed retail employee experience
Frontline employees today want more than a paycheck. They want a sense of value and pride in a job well done. Yet, 62 percent of retail workers say leadership doesn’t prioritize building culture. Our research also reveals a pressing need to focus more on the well-being of frontline workers, as 51 percent in non-management positions don’t feel valued as employees, and many wish more was being done to help with physical exhaustion or to support mental health.1
To drive positive outcomes for employees, customers, and their stores’ bottom line, leaders can prioritize culture and engagement while investing in technology that enables frontline workers to thrive. Features like Microsoft Viva in Teams give retailers an opportunity to bridge gaps between leadership and frontline workers.
Microsoft Viva Connections
Microsoft Viva ConnectionsLearn more
To help improve the frontline retail worker employee experience, Microsoft Viva Connections pre-configuration for frontline workers is now available in preview. This experience pins Viva Connections to the app tray and offers a simplified dashboard that includes relevant adaptive cards for Shifts, Tasks, Approvals, and Top News, providing a quick way to access these key workflows and resources. IT pros can customize the experience to meet the specific needs of the frontline workers in their organization. Users licensed with a Microsoft 365 F-SKU will soon see this as the default experience in Teams, offering a centralized location to find key information at employees’ fingertips.
Microsoft Viva Engage
Stories in Microsoft Viva Engage is now in preview. With Viva Engage, employees can join and participate in communities to contribute to company discussions. Frontline retail workers can use Stories and Storylines to unlock new ways to share, connect with their peers, and express themselves.
Microsoft Viva Learning
With the new home page experience in the Viva Learning mobile app, now generally available, employees can more easily access training assignments and browse learning content on the go. They can open Viva Learning from within the Teams app and see a snapshot of upcoming assignments, bookmarked learning content, and personalized recommendations.
Watch the Viva Learning mobile demonstration.
IKEA, based in Sweden, reinvented the furniture business with its famously low-priced furniture that customers assemble themselves. Looking to improve retail coworkers’ engagement and incorporate more environmentally conscious business practices, the company deployed Microsoft 365 to its 166,000 employees. They have quickly adopted Teams to collaborate internally and externally, with the Teams mobile app especially appealing to store coworkers.
“Thanks to Microsoft Teams, we’ve adopted new working styles, which have reduced travel and supported people to achieve a better work-life balance.”—Jesper Brodin, Chief Executive Officer, Ingka Group, IKEA franchisee.
Seamlessly deploy and use Microsoft 365 apps on shared devices
It’s critical to enable the creation of secure communications across the retail value chain with a robust posture of built-in compliance and identity management tools.
Retailers often supply mobile devices to frontline workers that need to be shared across employees and between shifts. Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) shared device mode enables easy sign-in and sign-out for apps configured to support this feature. In preview starting this month, shared device mode will enable Microsoft Outlook, Edge, Yammer, and Power Apps apps on Android devices to join the portfolio of apps including Microsoft Teams that are able to be securely accessed through Microsoft Intune. On iOS devices, shared device mode support on Microsoft Intune for securely accessing Microsoft Teams is in preview starting February 2023. Retailers using SOTI and VMware Workspace ONE as their third-party unified endpoint management solutions for Android can also enroll devices in Azure AD with shared device mode. VMWare Workspace ONE’s support for shared device mode is in preview starting February 2023. SOTI’s support for shared device mode is in preview starting January 2023 and generally available in September 2023. Learn more about shared device mode.
We’re also providing a sample application through GitHub that customers can use to add QR-based authentication to their own applications, generally available this month in January 2023. Users will no longer need to type their full username when logging into a shared device.
Deploying Outlook at scale
Today, IT admins must navigate multiple platforms to roll out solutions for their frontline workforce. Deploying Outlook at scale allows IT admins to use the Microsoft 365 admin center as a single hub for IT management, which will be in preview in February 2023. We are previewing two new features in February. With audience targeting in Outlook, customers can easily send targeted emails, filtering the frontline recipients by job function, location, and department to ensure their messages reach the intended audience. With group mailboxes, IT admins can give each department a unified voice, allowing frontline teams to contact each other with ease. Read more on how to get started with deploying Outlook at scale.
Meet us at NRF to start empowering your frontline
The retail industry, which will convene in person in New York after three challenging years, has never been more resilient or ready for innovation. From improving day-to-day operations and helping lessen the burden of the labor gap to ultimately enhancing the customer experience, we remain committed to helping frontline workers thrive in today’s digitally connected, distributed world of work.
Join us at the NRF expo in New York from January 14 to 17, 2023, to learn about the latest frontline technology to drive success for your organization.
To learn more, read the Microsoft Cloud for Retail blog.
Transform and unify your frontline workforce with Microsoft Teams.
1Technology can help unlock a new future for frontline workers, WorkLab, Work Trend Index Special Report, Microsoft. January 12, 2022.