For telecom retail businesses, the rollout and adoption of 5G will have a host of wide-ranging effects, with new services, devices, rate plans, and customer experiences being just some of these effects. Below are the key ways in which this new technology will change the game for the industry.
New device launches, new sales: Just as 2G phones couldn’t connect to 3G or 4G networks, 4G and LTE devices won’t be able to connect to 5G networks. This means an increase in sales all around; new devices to access the improved network and compatible accessories for those devices. However, it’s worth noting that this may be partially offset by the much-longer-lasting battery power of 5G devices. Mobile data traffic traveling over 5G will be compressed and this, along with more efficient network protocols, will give smartphones’ rechargeable batteries a much longer life.
More profitable rate plans: Increased network benefits will allow carriers and wireless retailers to charge more for the rate plans or even add new rate plan options. 5G is an expensive endeavor, so it will be important to recover those costs. The risk factor here, of course, is the additional cost to the consumer, so it will be crucial for 5G to prove its value first.
Different media and entertainment services: With the ability to stream or download media and entertainment at break-neck speeds, we will see more opportunities to offer services or content to customers. Current subscription services may become obsolete as new, more profitable services emerge.
New IoT opportunities: More products for customers will be hitting the market: more Internet of Things (IoT) accessories for people’s work, homes, or vehicles will emerge, and even products for autonomous cars will open up. Customers will be expecting more smart products such as drones, wearables, baby tech, medical sensors, etc. This increased technological expectation will provide retailers with much higher profit margins than a typical cell phone case or screen protector.
Customer-facing in-store technology: 5G will continue to force the evolution of the technology retailers use to interact with customers. Everything from websites to mobile apps to in-store tech devices will arise. Faster connections and reduced latency will allow for a more personalized experience with solutions like digital signage, digital price tags, augmented and virtual reality kiosks, interactive in-store apps, and more.
Strengthening the customer connection: Near-instant connections for customer service, whether it’s initiated by humans or artificial intelligence (AI), will require 5G-type speed. New opportunities for these types of connections will continue to evolve. Rather than text or calls, there may be a move to video chats where connectivity will be extremely important to be able to create a great customer experience. And in the not-so-distant future, who knows? Maybe retailers could be supporting customers via holograms. However, one downside is that for retailers using in-store WiFi to track or monitor their customer data, decreased WiFi usage will impact data collection and, in turn, the retailer’s ability to provide a personalized customer experience.
Increased connectivity for businesses: Retailers that rely on multiple devices and sensors to communicate and aggregate data will see performance enhancements. This will allow more devices to be connected and with lower latency. Surveillance video or tracking technologies will also be faster and better utilized for pattern recognition of shoppers.
Better, faster inventory visibility: If a product the customer wants isn’t on the store shelves, a sales associate could advise instantly if there’s another somewhere in current inventory, either in their store or another one of the brand’s outlets. Another immediate implementation of this new technology will be the overlay of AI in-store to see sales data over areas in a specific store, in distribution warehouses, or in manufacturing plants. This will gather how-to information and identify areas of improvement for inventory management.
Better connectivity for supply chain logistics: 5G allows manufacturers to take advantage of IoT to streamline workflows in the warehouse. The network will also provide cableless connectivity for industrial robots as they receive commands and software updates from the cloud.
Improved retail data and analytics: 5G’s low latency means more data aggregated in a more consumable way. This means sharing even more data to the cloud but with better and faster processes and less data entry, which takes out personal perspectives that can skew data. But AI needs to sit on top of the data to make it more digestible and curate the information ‚as there will be too much of it to be meaningful without machine learning to home in on the actionable insights.
Future potential: Perhaps 5G-enabled autonomous vehicles will deliver store shipments or deliver items to customers more quickly, and retailers could even ship orders through fulfillment solutions with 5G-connected drone fleets. Customers will be even more mobile with their buying habits, ultimately evolving purchasing behavior to where the customer can buy wireless products and services anywhere.
There seems little doubt that 5G will have radical effects on the telecom retail sector. However, this next-generation network is not without its limitations. It’s worth noting that, even in the face of years of 5G implementation and adoption ahead of us, companies such as Apple have for the past year been working on the next generation of wireless technology: 6G.