The days of dial-up and dodgy buffering are long gone: long live 5G! Last year, 2019 saw the first 5G systems installed and running within the UK: a far faster version of the 4G version that many are used to. Although at present its coverage is limited to certain areas, 2020 will see it expand across the nation and be utilised not just by consumers but businesses as well – not least the retail industry. Whilst there still needs to be a fair amount of work undertaken on the networks – something which may take some time – it’s exciting to consider the changes that a new 5G network will bring about.
So, with these changes on the way, how will 5G affect the retail industry and what innovation will it bring?
New opportunities to link online and offline
Retailers are increasingly looking for ways to capture the imagination of their customers and reinforce their branding. Whilst much of this stems from creating positive and innovative experiences, focus has been placed on the ways in which in-store and online environments can work together and integrate: something that 5G will no doubt help with. The higher connectivity speeds also open up opportunities for innovations such as overlaid visuals via customers pointing their smartphones at products, the use of 3D technology or even in-store sensors to trigger recommendations and tailored advice. Retailers will be able to interact with their customers in ways that wouldn’t have been possible before.
Embracing of AI and new technology
While the use of AI and technology in retail is not explicitly tied to 5G, it will thrive on the speed and enhanced data flow that it offers. The faster that information can be shared, the faster it can be used and therefore the more efficient AI can become. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will also become easier, giving consumers the opportunity to do things such as to virtually wear clothes or place items in their home to see how they look, which could also impact the amount of returns that retailers are currently having to process.
The personal approach
The improved speed of 5G also expands the opportunity for retailers to make personalisation a priority through the use of software such as Mercaux’s sales assist solution, which brings the benefits of digital in-store to drive sales uplift. The ability to respond to the purchases customers make and their patterns of behaviour will be greatly enhanced as a result, meaning that content can be specifically tailored in real-time. This will have a place most obviously with the online customer but 5G can also enhance instore performance as interactions with store assistants, the advice they can give and personal recommendations they can make will be made smoother by the speed of 5G.
Not only could the communication between customer and retailer be improved, but also the communications between the retailer and their various contacts. Supply chains will be able to take advantage of the improved reliability, while transportation, stock allocation and problem solving will all experience the benefits that come from large amounts of data being able to be transferred more rapidly between organisations.
The impact to retailers encountering connectivity and outage problems can be significant, both financially and to the customer experience. With the move towards wireless retail environments and the further embracing of AI and the Internet of Things, any disconnects will be even more disruptive. Retailers will notice the increased reliability of the 5G service and should hopefully see fewer interruptions, also taking a step further to knit together a customer’s online and offline shopping experience.