The Cambridge Dictionary defines the wow factor as a quality that makes someone feel great excitement or admiration. In retail, the wow factor refers to the business’ ability to amaze customers and convert them into store or brand admirers. A recent study from Wharton’s Baker Retailing Center and The Verde Group found that retailers can increase shopper repurchase intent by nearly 60% by delivering a great experience.
Retailers that understand the customer journey and adopt innovative strategies are looking at ways to turn their brick-and-mortar stores into experience centers. There have been retailers opening more stores than those closing after the pandemic. These experience centers can benefit significantly from 5G to wow the customers.
Rivian, the all-electric pickup truck maker, recently launched its first retail hub with a lounge, garden, and library. Now imagine people coming to this lounge and they do not have access to the Internet. Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the largest sporting goods retailers, recently unveiled its House of Sports store with a running track, rock wall, batting cages and outdoor turf field. Imagine you are on the turf trying out new equipment when you ask the staff about the equipment. Instead of whipping out a tablet to check and answer your question, they ask you to walk back to the counter. Tractor Supply Co., the nation’s largest rural lifestyle retailer, is transforming its retail space to drive a compelling showcase for its brands. Imagine you pick up all the things you need for your farm, and then they tell you that they currently cannot process credit cards.
You get the drift. Connectivity is critical to driving in-store traffic, providing a seamless shopping experience, fostering a robust brand connection and creating lasting memories. In short, the wow factor for the store depends heavily on the store’s network connection.
Now that we have established that connectivity in the store is a must-have to wow the customer, let us look at how 5G can provide that wow factor:
- In-store experiences: The best way for a store to have uninterrupted connectivity is to be connected using heterogeneous networks or two different networks. Most stores today have wired connectivity. Any disruption to the wired network due to a fiber cut, network error or human lapse will result in the store going offline. 5G provides an alternate method to keep the store connected at all times. Tractor Supply Co., Circle K, and AutoZone are already using 5G to connect their stores. 5G can also connect mobile point-of-sale (POS) terminals, self-service kiosks, scan-and-go checkouts and other forms of frictionless shopping with ease. Omnichannel solutions that leverage intelligent displays, QR codes and consumer profiles can provide extreme personalization. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) powered by 5G can delight and wow customers. 5G is critical for these technologies to deliver the wow factor.
- Delivery and stocking experiences: 5G can support massive IoT connectivity, which can be used to improve product tracking capabilities. 5G can reduce wasted time and prevent inventory shrinkage, providing retailers with cost savings. A pallet of goods can be tracked from departure at the manufacturing site through transit to the store. This information can give consumers up-to-date status on inventory, purchases or delays. Companies can optimize delivery routes in real time, reducing delays. During these times of supply chain chaos and high prices, savings in the supply chain can be a boon to retailers. Being able to tell a customer where their favorite product is will undoubtedly add to the wow factor.
- Employee experiences: 5G can enable connected workforces to respond to requests, improving customer satisfaction. Better communication between in-store staff, store managers and supply chain personnel via 5G devices will allow for responding to customer queries. Connected devices also allow for personalization and improved customer service. 5G-enabled tools can allow for order picking and inventory management. Reducing labor-intensive and repeated tasks will enable employees to reduce errors and focus on customer-specific requests. A happier workforce is essential to delivering the wow factor.
The retail industry is dynamic. Only 8% of global consumers are committed to the brands they purchase. In this age of fast and fickle consumers, it is imperative to dazzle the customer. Creating lasting in-store experiences, providing up-to-date product information and being served by happy employees are must-haves to wow the customer. 5G can provide retailers with uninterrupted connectivity, elevated in-store experiences, access to real-time data, streamlined operations and improved employee morale.
While making sneakers may be Nike’s forte, allowing customers to try sneakers on a treadmill in front of a jumbotron that simulates outdoor runs does bring the wow factor. Nike still has dedicated coaches on-hand to put customers through their paces when they try out sneakers in their stores. Someday, with 5G, they may have virtual coaches do that too. Indeed there is no limit to the wow factor retailers can bring with 5G on their side.
Ritesh Mukherjee is an accomplished leader focusing on global communications and technology. He leads product design, solutions engineering, and technical marketing as SVP and General Manager at Inseego. Before joining Inseego, Mukherjee was VP at Reliance Jio, managing a global portfolio of enterprise solutions. He was VP, Product Management at 128 Technology (acquired by Juniper Networks) and a Product Management Leader at Cisco, leading the software operating systems group. Mukherjee teaches Computer Networks and Security courses at the Benjamin Franklin Cummins Institute of Technology, Boston and he holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Concordia University, Montreal.