by Kayla Matthews
At times, it may seem that technology is pushing for retail to become wholly online. While e-commerce is rising at a meteoric rate, the latest tech isn’t leaving brick-and-mortar retailers in the dust. Some new advances like 5G could revolutionize the physical retail industry.
5G isn’t just a new gimmick for phone companies to list in their ads. The term’s frequent use can make it sound like another marketing buzzword, but it promises substantial improvements across the board. Every retail store has near countless functions that rely on the internet, and 5G technology expands what it can do.
Here are five ways 5G is and will be impacting retail:
1. Better Customer Engagement
5G networks can offer 10 times the speed and a massive reduction in latency compared to 4G. What does this mean for retailers? Stores can now incorporate features never before possible and that websites can’t match.
Some retailers already use augmented reality (AR) to do things like show customers how an item will look in their home. With the improved connection of 5G, stores could take this to the next level with technology like AR changing rooms. Imagine seeing how clothes look on you without needing to change. With 5G-fueled AR, it’s possible.
5G would make any artificial intelligence (AI) systems in a store more responsive. Self-service kiosks could answer customers’ questions faster and more accurately. They could also respond to touchless inputs like voice commands or hand motions.
2. Streamlined Shopping Experiences
Cashierless retail stores are beginning to emerge around the world, and 5G makes them more viable. Made famous by the growing Amazon Go stores, these establishments use sensors, AI and machine vision to charge customers as they walk out. These streamlined experiences rely heavily on a fast internet connection, which is where 5G comes in.
Faster and more reliable networks mean easier automatic checkouts. With slower 4G connections, some retailers may be hesitant to adopt the cashierless model. Any lag in the system could mean someone walks out with something they didn’t pay for or with an extra charge.
Since 5G offers decreased latency, these issues wouldn’t be a concern. It makes cashierless stores a reliable investment for businesses and a safe experience for customers.
3. Omnichannel Experiences
In a connected world, omnichannel is the wave of the future. To appeal most to customers, stores need to provide a consistent experience across online stores, social media and brick-and-mortar locations. This process can take up a lot of internet traffic, which isn’t an issue for 5G.
A 5G system can note how a customer responds to an ad in the morning to improve their in-store visit in the afternoon. When a customer’s phone connects to the store Wi-Fi, the system can recognize it and provide a tailored experience. Consistency and personalization help both consumers and sellers.
Stores are likely to sell more with the marketing benefits of omnichannel. At the same time, customers will have a more comfortable experience because of it.
4. More Accurate Supply Chains
Not everything 5G improves happens in-store. It can make supply chains and warehouse operations more accurate, too. Modern logistics depend on internet-based functions like package tracking that become more reliable with 5G networks.
Warehouses that use barcode tracking to manage inventory can see accuracy rates as high as 99 percent. The increased speed and traffic capacity of 5G can take this already impressive figure and bump it up further. Things like cloud-based inventory records and tracking can manage more items in less time with 5G.
5. Faster Analytics
Data analytics has become a staple of modern marketing. Analyzing market trends and customer behavior presents stores with a remarkable advantage over traditional advertising strategies. As with any online task, this process also has a lot to gain from 5G.
With 5G, analytic systems could come up with results and insights in less time. Customer preferences are often fluid, so staying on top of them means being able to make fast adjustments. Doing so is easier when you have the speed and reliability of 5G.
5G networks could theoretically offer analytics in real-time. They could analyze customers’ behavior in-store to provide personalized suggestions about other items they might like. Customers would enjoy personalization while retailers see higher sales.
5G Networks and Beyond
5G networks are not available everywhere yet, but widespread 5G coverage is likely to start rolling out in late 2020. Retailers that want to capitalize on all 5G has to offer should begin making plans to do so soon. Stores in major cities will have robust 5G access first, so retailers can focus on these locations initially.
Technology today moves at a breakneck pace, so it can be tempting to always look for the next thing. Early research on 6G has already started, but it’s likely about a decade out. For now, retailers should turn their attention to 5G, and see how they can take advantage of all its possibilities.