The Impact of 5G on Wireless Retail

LTE has considerably expanded the market and digital opportunities for both businesses and customers; disruptive companies, such as Uber, couldn’t have existed without it. It’s now clear 5G will have an even greater impact than its predecessors. Whether you’re a social media influencer, gamer, carrier, or retailer, 5G will increase efficiency for you in a variety of ways.

Think of 4G and LTE as the dirt road and 5G as the freeway and in addition to faster speeds, lower latency, and increased connectivity, 5G will enable new possibilities — some of which aren’t even known to us yet.

5G is predicted to grow even faster than 4G and will arguably be widely available within three years. So, with the future in our focus, it’s time to start thinking about how one more G’ will affect wireless retail.

Increased Revenue Potential

New devices mean 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.

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 will be an expensive endeavor, so it will be important to recover those costs.

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.

Enhanced Customer Experience

Customer-facing technology: 5G will continue to force evolution of the technology retailers use to interact with customers. Everything from websites to mobile apps to in-store tech devices will arise. There will be a more personalized experience with items introduced on an even larger scale with solutions like digital signage, AI, VR, interactive apps in-store, and more. It’s possible that retailers will even end up delivering out-of-stock items through fulfillment solutions with connected drones.

Strengthening the customer connection: Near-instant connections for customer service, whether it’s initiated by humans or 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, retailers may be supporting customers via holograms. It’s not a sci-fi movie, it’s the reality of what is possible for the future of retail.

Connect to customers in a different way: 5G will likely make WiFi in stores obsolete as even now, it’s common that customers will disable WiFi because it’s slower than their data plan. So, for retailers who use WiFi to track or monitor their customer data, decreased usage will impact data collection and, in turn, their ability to provide a personalized customer experience. 

Improved Operational Efficiencies

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. It’s a win-win!

More data aggregated in a more consumable way: 5G will mean sharing even more data to the cloud but with better and faster processes (and less data entry!). This takes out personal perspectives that can skew data. But AI will need 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 trusty machine learning to home in on the actionable insights.

Enabling even more AI: Perhaps autonomous vehicles will deliver store shipments or deliver items to customers more quickly. But it’s likely that the more 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 manufacturing plants. This will gather how-to information and identify areas of improvement.

5G will be a part of the retail sphere faster than you’d think and it’s the perfect time to ready your business to take full advantage of all of its benefits. However, despite all of this, retailers need to remember that a human connection will still be important and arguably the pivotal part of doing business in-store. Don’t lose sight of the 50-yard line between human interaction and technological enablement. Balancing the two will mean your in-store and online experience will be a head above the rest.

Want to get ahead of the game on what’s new in retail so you can be one step ahead of your competition? Check out our whitepaper on 5G: How will 5G Impact Wireless Retailers?

Shutterstock / GaudiLab