The State of the Telecom Retail Industry:

Trends for 2024 and Beyond

Learn about the top megatrends affecting telecom retail now and in 2024, key results and predictions from our 2023 Trends in Telecom Retail survey, and how Interconnected Commerce is shaping the sector’s future.

In the ever-evolving landscape of telecom retail, staying ahead of industry trends is essential.

We understand that telecom retail is very complicated. There are ever-evolving and ever-increasing customer expectations, competitive pressures, economic turmoil, and the need to connect legacy systems. Staying competitive in this relentlessly changing industry requires flexibility and adaptability.

Against this backdrop of constant change, understanding the market and staying current with top trends is critical. In this whitepaper, we’ll discuss the top megatrends shaping telecom retail in 2024, key results and predictions from our 2023 Trends in Telecom Retail survey, and how Interconnected Commerce is shaping the sector’s future.



Labor shortages in telecom retail

The retail industry is grappling with a severe labor shortage that has sent shockwaves through the workforce. 63% of retailers are currently operating with a deficit of frontline employees, and half of those frontline employees believe that staffing levels have worsened since the pandemic. 

Compounding these challenges, 43% of retail employees are concerned about increased job demands and workloads. Given these concerns, it’s unsurprising that 74% of retail workers are either actively job hunting or contemplating a switch to a new profession. The implications are clear; the retail sector must adapt to these profound labor challenges.

Technology solutions are gaining ground, with 80% of retailers saying they are planning to implement solutions to improve the employee experience, streamline operational efficiency, and provide tools for employees to excel in their roles. Retailers investing in these technologies are not only addressing labor shortages but also positioning themselves at the forefront of a rapidly evolving industry. 

For telecom retailers — who face the added challenge of clunky systems and processes that create poor experiences for both reps and customers — the need to implement streamlined solutions is key to the challenge of employee retention. Travis Brown of ConnectCell told us, Right now, you have to enter all the customer information into the point of sale, and then enter all the customer information into the billing system and you’re duplicating everything. Except the billing system doesn’t have payment processing. And then you have accessories and in-store purchases that are done at the point of sale. And, in terms of plan selection and feature selection and so on, we’re duplicating both of those things on both sides of the system.”

With so much complexity, it’s no wonder that employee experience is suffering. Solutions that address the specific pain points of telecom retail to streamline workflow, reduce transaction times, and improve agent experience will be key to businesses looking to remain competitive in 2024.


AI and its impact on the telecom industry

The telecom industry has been actively embracing AI, with 34% of telecom industry professionals reporting that their companies have incorporated AI into some aspect of their operations for more than six months. While 31% are in the research and assessment phase, 5% are yet to plan their AI integration. 

AI is already delivering real benefits; 73% of companies currently using AI technologies have seen significant increases in revenue, and 80% of these companies have seen significant cost reductions.

Our 2023 Trends in Telecom Retail survey also reflects the growing shift toward use of AI technologies: 

  • 63.1% of telecom retail professionals saying they anticipate an upsurge in AI usage, particularly in improving customer experience and personalization. 
  • The trend of using AI for customer service was deemed the second most likely to grow over the next few years by survey respondents.

iQmetrix’s Stacy Hamer is seeing this play out in client conversations, too. She said, I’m fascinated that three times in one week, this idea of an AI-powered or in-store virtual assistant has come up in client discussions. So, there is an appetite to think about it and talk about it, which suggests that it could soon be a reality.”


Government regulation in telecom — and its effect on the US prepaid sector

Regulatory requirements in the U.S. have led to an explosion in prepaid services, driven by the acquisition of Tracfone by Verizon in 2020. The delay in the much-anticipated release of the 5G C band has also cast a shadow over several key players in the industry this year.

Additionally, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which plays a critical role in helping underserved and low-income populations access affordable telecommunications services, has played a significant role in reshaping the prepaid ecosystem. The ACP’s subsidies for eligible individuals has driven increased demand for prepaid services, making them a more attractive and viable option.

This shift in demand is creating a lot of movement in the market as large players make plays to capitalize on this new source of customers. However, Jason Raymer, Senior Vice President of Revenue at iQmetrix, cautions that businesses need to take a longer view of these opportunities:​“A lot of these prepaid retailers are thinking only about the transaction, because that’s truly all that matters to them right now. So, while these folks are rapidly setting up stores, it’s important to also think about how they scale their business operations longer term, if they want to succeed.

Rayer said, They need to think beyond the transaction to ensuring they have the right tech stack for the future. One that has turnkey integrations, powerful reporting, security in today’s climate, flexibility, and stability. How do they grow their marketing to customers — which a lot of these sessions were talking about — if they don’t have the right solutions in place to scale?”

Added to that, the complexities of operating multiple stores in a high-product-value, low-profit-margin retail vertical can be tough to manage without a robust system of business analytics.​“It even plays into fraud prevention,” added Raymer.​“If they don’t have the right reporting behind the transaction, they can’t manage their costs and losses in the already low-margin business that everyone was talking about. As they want to grow stores, they need technology that grows with them that’s easy to roll out.”

This regulatory reshaping of the US telecom landscape has made the lack of regulatory impact on the Canadian telecom sector all the more striking. While the Roger/​Shaw merger has been delayed, it is still set to go through. And the CRTC’s efforts to boost competition in Canadian telecom have yet to bear fruit.


Drop in demand for devices, with longer buying cycles

The global smartphone market has witnessed a 6% year-over-year decline in shipments in 2023. Consumers are demonstrating a preference for holding onto their devices for a more extended period and are seeking greater value and cost-effective alternatives in the growing refurbished device market when they do need to purchase new devices.

However, it is also notable that just over half of new device sales in 2022 were premium smartphones – reflecting a shift in preference toward devices with longer lifespans and advanced features like high-resolution displays, powerful processors, and advanced photography systems. Premium devices also tend to have extended periods for updates and support, contributing to their appeal among consumers tired of replacing their phone every other year.

Wes Filson, director of retail sales and operations at in Canada, told us these longer buying cycles are why he wants to keep a healthily diversified business. He told us, Previously, customers were upgrading once every 18 months. Now it’s at three years; even as high as 40 months. While cellphones will continue to play a huge role in our business, I would encourage businesses to see what other opportunities may be out there.”

Oscar Marquez of Budget Wireless agrees, particularly citing the importance of diversifying with IoT and smart home devices. Yes, device sales have gone down recently as customers are holding on to phones for longer. However, I don’t think they’ll go down too much further because of the reduced competition in terms of numbers of stores, so you have more device customers per store. When you add in IoT and smart-home devices, which I think will increase, then overall you’re looking at higher sales.”


New wireline MVNOs gobbling up wireless market share

Securing the number one spot on our countdown is the remarkable rise of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) in the wireline cable segment. This growth has been fueled by substantial year-over-year subscriber increases and a strategic pivot towards wireless services by cable companies. 

This growth reflects a necessary pivot in strategy as US consumers continue to get rid of cable TV in favor of streaming services. The wireline companies have been able to accelerate this pivot into wireless services through aggressive bundling of wireless and internet services. 

Why is bundling winning subscribers? Several factors, including: 

  1. In the face of rising food, rent, and energy costs, price-conscious consumers are always looking for bargains and discounts, especially on necessary services.
  2. Most younger consumers (especially Gen Z and Alpha) don’t care about​“types” of connection or​“prestige” brands. They want the cheapest service that will get the job done.
  3. Bundling brings convenience. Bundles come with only one bill, and streamlines the integration of wireless, tablet, TV, streaming, internet, and smart home devices when it’s handled through one provider. 

Charter Spectrum, in particular, has emerged as the dominant player in the wireline MVNO space, outpacing competitors with an impressive 55% year-over-year growth in wireless subscriptions from Q2 2022 to Q2 2023. Additionally, Charter Spectrum has also managed to minimize the decline in cable TV subscribers, experiencing only a 5% drop, a notably better performance compared to Altice’s 10% and Comcast’s 14% decline.

In the second edition of our bi-annual iQmetrix Trends in Telecom Retail survey, we asked a series of questions of industry professionals across the US and Canada to get some insights and predictions on wireless retail trends. Respondents came from top-tier telecom carriers, well-known wireless brands, authorized retailers of all sizes, wireless store-within-a-store operators, cable/​internet companies moving into wireless, handset manufacturers, and more.

The picture the results painted was one of an industry that is relentlessly changing — and the players who continue to adapt within those changes. Amid unprecedented challenges like a global pandemic and attendant economic and supply chain disruptions, businesses in the telecom retail space have shown remarkable innovation and resilience, proving that telecom retail as a sector is resilient and adaptable.

The resulting whitepaper—The Future is Interconnected Commerce: 2023 Trends in Telecom Retail—reveals that wireless retail operators remain optimistic about business outlooks, albeit with a little more caution than two years earlier. The respondents’ answers demonstrated their adaptability to meet customers where they are and rise to their new expectations, which is essential if retailers are going to win today’s race for customer loyalty.

So, what were the major trends identified by the survey?

Business outlook reveals increasingly cautious optimism

In our 2023 survey, telecom retail operators proved that they were a confident group when it comes to business forecasts. Today, that optimism still exists — but it’s a little more cautious than before. In our questions about retailers’ business outlooks, most respondents still chose to see a bright future. But in each case, that majority was noticeably smaller than it had been two years ago, with more respondents moving towards neutral or negative sentiment.

Some key findings on business outlook were:

  • Nearly 59% of respondents predicted growth in device sales over the next three years
  • Almost 79% said smart home device sales will increase over the next three years
  • Over 68% said competition today is higher than three years ago

Travis Brown, Director of Sales of ConnectCell, a family-owned authorized retailer for US Cellular, thinks sales of smart devices will hold steady. He told iQmetrix, You’ve got population that’s going to only increase device sales, but the rate of growth will slow down. People are hanging on to their devices longer, which means people are going to be buying fewer devices, but I think that will be backfilled by upcoming population, new phone purchases, and maybe a renewed trend for carrying two devices — especially Gen Z, who are often using a separate device for streaming and content creation.”

A look at the top industry challenges and threats

Our survey revealed that the biggest challenge ahead of respondents was a general continued economic uncertainty, which 59.5% said they were worried about, making it our top answer. That’s even higher than the 49.6% of our last survey in 2021, when this was also the top answer.

  • Nearly 46% have noticed a decline in smartphone demand over the past three years
  • Over 59% cited continued economic uncertainty as their biggest challenge
  • Nearly 86% see the business opportunity in eSIM, although a third of those also see a threat

The introduction of eSIM technology is a newer hurdle to overcome. The vast majority of respondents — nearly 86% — see business opportunities of some kind with eSIM, and most are formulating strategies around it. But a third also see it as a threat.

Wes Filson of is one of those respondents. He said, eSIM could also be devastating to our industry. They pose a real threat to us as dealers, as the customers have that opportunity to purchase online from the carrier, and activate it wherever they need, so it might obviate the need for the physical store. I’m under no illusions as to the threat of eSIMs, but they’re here now. It’s either put our heads in the sand, or make plans and work towards those pieces like the IoT and smart home automation and those different elements that could lead to success.”

Unified commerce is no longer optional

In today’s retail environment, customers expect a unified online-to-in-store experience, with a range of features such as Buy Online Pick up In-Store (BOPIS), drop shipping options, contactless payments, and more. These unified commerce offerings are no longer optional for those retailers who don’t want to get left behind.

Stacy Hamer, Chief Operating Officer of iQmetrix, said, These features are table stakes. If you’re not doing these already, get with it, because that’s old school now. The question is, what’s new that you should be thinking about?”

When it comes to new technologies:

  • Close to 66% of respondents have implemented contactless payments, with most of those having kept them post-pandemic
  • More than 63% think it’s likely AI analytics of customer behavior will increasingly shape retail strategies
  • Over 76% predict a greater focus on customer loyalty and rewards programs

Hamer added,​“Even though there’s some nervousness and caution in some of these responses, what I love about the businesses in this industry is how resilient they are. No matter what problem gets thrown into this industry, they will transform and find new ways to engage with their customers to win that loyalty race. And we will be there, giving them the support and technology they need to do that. It makes me so proud to be a part of this evolution.”

Trish Sale, Vice President of Product at iQmetrix, said,​“Ultimately, it is about the ability to pull together all those carrier and retailer systems seamlessly so that you can have a frictionless experience, you can transact within wireless, you can get that activation to happen without having to swivel between systems — without having that disjointed and disconnected experience. And you can only do that with Interconnected Commerce.”

The physical retail space is changing

Many have been saying for years that brick-and-mortar retail is dying, and even more expected these predictions to come suddenly true as the pandemic hit. But post-COVID, foot traffic has largely returned to physical stores, even as omnichannel solutions and digital channels have become the new normal. So what does the future hold for physical stores, and how are retailers planning on improving the store experience for both customers and employees?

When asked how they see the role of the physical telecom retail store evolving over the next five years, there was a diversity of opinion.

Bryce McDonald of Advanced Cellular thinks the physical store isn’t going away any time soon. He told iQmetrix, The in-store experience of holding that device, making sure they’re getting exactly what they want, will still be a big thing. Trends recycle themselves and we saw this during and after the pandemic. Everyone did everything online, but we all got sick of that, and we needed to get back out to stores. Today, people want a convenient combination, where they go to physical stores to check out their new device, but maybe they want to pay for it online.”

iQmetrix’s Trish Sale confirms that this is what the company is seeing among its client base. Retail is moving into that hybrid space where customers are expecting to interact in multiple ways with a given brand, and see the store as an extension of their other points of contact with the brand. It’s not that physical retail is disappearing, but that Interconnected Commerce is becoming a key way that the telecom industry interacts with its retail customers.”

In the world of telecom retail, everyone is after the same goal. Whether you operate as an authorized retailer, carrier, OEM, or another telecom business, you need to cultivate an enhanced customer experience — one that is unified, simplified, and optimized — by ensuring a consistent customer experience across all channels.

However, when it comes to activations the reality of current customer experience contrasts with the seemingly effortless nature of modern communication technology. While consumers can seamlessly sign up for services, change insurance, order groceries, pay bills, or even buy a car online, the process of purchasing a smartphone or activating a device with a preferred carrier remains comparatively convoluted. 

The intricacies of the telecom industry have resulted in complex, disjointed systems, prompting various major brands to adopt in-house solutions and 1-to-1 integrations to address specific pain points. As pain points arise, many companies tackle challenges independently, building bespoke solutions for each issue they encounter. 

Despite the rational intentions, this approach contributes to a costly and intricate tech infrastructure — a metaphorical spaghetti bowl of interconnected systems. Each industry change prompts new IT projects and costly adjustments, resulting in a progressively burdensome system with each added player and integration. So instead of getting simpler, the spaghetti bowl is simply getting more complex.

So how can telecom retail overcome the challenge of disjointed systems to bridge the gap between the current state of customer experience and customer expectations? Through Interconnected Commerce.

What is Interconnected Commerce?

iQmetrix’s suite of Interconnected Commerce solutions is a complete set of technologies that are modular, flexible, wireless-specific, and seamlessly connect disparate systems. In combination with our ecosystem of integrated partners, Interconnected Commerce is a streamlined tech stack designed to carry the complexities and weight of telecom retail so all carriers, OEMs, retailers, and sales associates can have frictionless and uplifting experiences — ultimately creating one for your customers. 

Telecom is interconnected. Whether your business is a carrier, a retailer, or a device manufacturer, the entire sector is inextricably interlinked. iQmetrix’s solutions take companies across the industry from multiple legacy systems, a one-to-one integration approach, and disconnected customer experiences to flexible, modular commerce solutions that are interconnected, allowing for a one-to-many and many-to-many integration approach. 

The interconnectivity of our services also relates to the deep-rooted expertise we have in the telecom industry. iQmetrix has been creating uplifting experiences for our clients and, ultimately, their customers for more than 20 years. Our long-standing, sector-wide relationships give us the benefit of an overarching perspective on best practices and innovation. That’s why the leading brands in telecom trust us to be their technology partner.

What elements make up iQmetrix Interconnected Commerce?

If you sell devices, whether it’s online or in-store, we can empower you in various ways. Whether it’s the transaction itself, adding or improving activations, fulfilling product orders, operating your business, unifying the online and in-store experience, or connecting vendors and systems — we can help.

Here are the six families of iQmetrix Interconnected Commerce solutions, built specifically for telecom retail:


Go beyond merely processing sales to slashing transaction times and revolutionizing the in-store experience for both reps and customers. This suite of solutions includes mobile POS, payment processing, bill payments, and a digital endless aisle of products.


Streamline the activation process, to deliver fast, intuitive, and stress-free activation experiences, both in-store and online. This includes multi-carrier activations, single-carrier activations, and activation journey creation.


Take full control over your inventory to ensure you have the right product in the right place at the right time, with visibility at every level. This includes solutions such as inventory and supply chain management, warehouse management, multi-channel management, and dropship.


Empower your business to boost profits through increased operational efficiency. This includes customer and workforce management, reconciliation, finance, accounting, data insights, and data analytics to power your business.


Meet consumer expectations of convenience and personalization by enabling a seamless journey across all channels. This includes solutions such as buy/​reserve online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS/ROPIS), local inventory availability, multi-channel brand management, and in-store queue management.


Facilitate effective communication and seamless collaboration between current, future, internal, and external systems. This includes system integrations, data integrations, and connection of an entire ecosystem of integrated vendors.

The Path Forward: Adapt, Transform, Thrive 

Keeping ahead of this relentlessly changing industry is a major challenge. That said, iQmetrix’s Stacy Hamer is optimistic about telecom retailers’ ability to adapt and thrive, even in a tough environment. No matter what problem gets thrown into this industry, they will transform and they will be resilient and they will find new ways to engage with their customers to win that loyalty race. And we will be there, giving them the support and technology they need to do that. It makes me so proud to be a part of this evolution.”

As telecom retail continues to transform, businesses must not only anticipate and embrace these trends but also leverage innovative solutions to stay ahead. The future is Interconnected Commerce, and iQmetrix is committed to guiding its clients through this transformative journey, unlocking new layers of strategy and innovation within the telecom retail software space. The journey ahead promises opportunities for growth, adaptation, and sustained success, and iQmetrix looks forward to exploring these possibilities with its valued clients and partners.

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