The rollout of 5G has the potential to transform the retail industry by ushering in a new era of connectivity and experience. The advancements it supports should alleviate many of the challenges that retailers have endured during the pandemic. By dramatically accelerating the speed of mobile networks, it paves the way for a dazzling array of innovations.
The network’s rollout will play a vital role in supporting retailers in their quest to deliver a frictionless omnichannel experience. By creating deeper, personalized experiences, retailers will be able to increase sales. And the efficiency gains 5G supports will help improve operating margins.
5G signals the dawn of a new age of mobile communications that will transform the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. Thanks to vastly reduced latency and increased speeds, it allows significantly more devices to access the internet at the same time. By connecting people to everything, retailers can shepherd in a new era of experience-driven innovation.
The enhanced connectivity that 5G enables allows for near-seamless transfers of data and information. The supercharged network will support a range of use cases that improve the efficiency of operations and deliver seamless experiences for shoppers.
Here are four examples of the innovation that the retail industry can expect.
1. Immersive shopping experiences: 5G supports a range of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) solutions that will deliver immersive experiences, changing how consumers interact with products. The increased speed from 5G enables virtual commerce, where consumers can visualize products in the real world, increasing the number of digital touch points. It creates a host of new shopping experiences that further blur the line between physical and digital retail experiences. No longer will consumers need to visit a home goods store when they are revamping their living room. Instead, they can sit down and try a new sofa and explore exactly how it will look and feel within their home, all without stepping outside. These immersive 3D experiences will completely transform the try-before-you-buy concept and make personalized digital experiences a reality.
In addition, AR and VR will create a plethora of new in-store experiences. Interactive fitting rooms within stores can help shoppers select other sizes and suggest accessories or alternative items without the customer leaving the room. By interacting with the VR solution, consumers can adjust lighting and backgrounds to see precisely how outfits look in different settings, further enhancing the experience and increasing the ability to upsell. In addition, if the shopper is not ready to buy everything, they can send the data to their mobile phone to easily purchase it at a later date. 5G will underpin the true blending of the retail experience through personalization by expanding existing AR/VR capabilities beyond the smartphone, creating a much richer experience.
2. Contactless shopping: This trend will continue beyond the pandemic, with 5G supporting further improvements. Seamlessmobile payment and shopping will become a reality, removing the need for physical interactions with sales associates. Voice-activated digital video displays will automate many of the functions previously carried out by shop assistants.
3. Cashierless stores: 5G RFID tags enable retailers to scale cashierless stores across every type of retail environment. With the ability to increase the number of devices and people connected to the network, retailers finally have the technology and price point required to move this from a concept to a mainstream solution, including high-volume big box stores and supermarkets.
4. Store inventory and logistics: With 5G, retailers’ cloud-based backend systems will now be accessible in real time, improving performance. Sensors will be deployed on shelves to transmit information immediately, ensuring inventory levels and equipment locations are accurate and constantly monitored. This will enable consumers to point, click and receive their orders without incurring any unplanned delays or out-of-stock items that drive customers away.
The increased bandwidth from 5G provides 360-degree visibility across the entire supply chain, removing much of the friction from existing processes and reducing losses such as inventory shrinkage. Providing retailers with enhanced data on usage patterns can further streamline operations and reduce wasted inventory.
In addition to the innovations that 5G enables, it adds significantly more complexity to retail systems. Now, instead of evaluating individual components, retailers need to test the entire ecosystem to ensure it meets customer expectations. To reap the monetary rewards from the innovations that 5G supports, retailers must rethink how they test and monitor the performance of the digital experience.
As retail brands continue to grapple with the retail apocalypse, the advent of 5G networks offers a glimmer of hope for them to create deeper digital experiences that positively impact the bottom line.
Gareth Smith is General Manager for Eggplant, a Keysight Technologies company. He is a proven leader of product marketing, product management solutions and pre-sales teams. Prior experience includes Progress Software, where he held several positions including Director of Product Management and Principal Software Architect. He was also part of the founding team of Apama, where he was Director of Pre-Sales & Principal Architect before its acquisition by Progress Software. Smith has a doctorate in computer science, focusing on collaborative user interface design ,and spent over a decade in academia.