Five things 5G will offer retail

June 11, 2019

As 5G begins to roll out across the US, this new, faster, more efficient mobile internet is set to deliver fresh opportunities to retailers.

From more reliable mobile Point of Sale to increased adoption of augmented reality, here are five things 5G will offer retail.

5G in brief

In short, 5G is the fifth generation of cellular mobile telecommunications and is the type of internet accessed when using a smart phone or as an alternative to fixed internet access.

Its arrival means mobile internet will be faster and more efficient, and there’ll be more bandwidth available for things like video streaming on-the-go.

The potential 5G offers retail is considered so important it was a specific topic at CES 2019, with panellists noting 5G “is expected to unleash a wealth of innovation to retail commerce”.

Facilitating new technology

5G is predicted to be a major driver of the Internet of Things, allowing more devices to connect to mobile internet with greater efficiency.

Telecommunications provider AT&T explains this improved access will enable retailers to better cater to emerging trends that shape a shopper’s experience when they enter a store.

This includes a range of new technologies, like:

  • personalized digital signage
  • magic mirrors
  • augmented reality
  • virtual reality
  • smart shelves
  • video and pattern recognition of shoppers

Stores Magazine recently explained many retailers had previously sought to introduce this technology, but the heavy toll on bandwidth proved a challenge.

“While the hardware for digital fitting rooms, immersive experiences and interactive displays has long been available, retailers have often struggled with adoption due to the heavy bandwidth required to support these experiences,” they note. “5G could potentially eliminate these limitations.”

Unleashing the potential of mobile apps

Mobile apps are nothing new, but the speed at which they will be delivered and the seamless experience they will offer is set to transform under the guidance of 5G.

As retailers replace fixed internet with more efficient mobile, consumers will no longer have to overcome the glitch of connecting to a store’s network in order to access the benefits, Stores Magazine explains.

“Having to log into store networks to access in-store functionality has often been a hiccup in the omnichannel experience,” the magazine notes.

“In a fully optimised 5G environment, customers could seamlessly walk in and out of any store with a high-speed, real-time connection that enables them to engage with the retailer throughout the process.”

More reliable mPOS

Whether it’s a pop-up shop or traditional bricks and mortar store, mobile Point of Sale is fast becoming the option of choice for many retailers.

By its nature mPOS is dependent on the Cloud where data is stored in real time. Improved mobile internet means retailers will no longer be dependent on a fixed internet connection when it comes to running mPOS.

Ultimately this will allow mPOS to be more reliable and more nimble. It will truly be a go-anywhere option which retailers can scale-up, take off-site and access consistently and quickly in real-time with ease.

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Better back-end operations

From RFID inventory tracking to robots in the warehouse, 5G is set to increase the use of back-end retail tools that will transform everything from logistics to transport and stock-taking.

Again, much of this will occur through improved access to the Cloud and the increased adoption of the Internet of Things that 5G allows, but it will also happen in other ways. The CES panel explained 5G will offer greater video usage which could be applied to things like inventory management in real time using video.

Not only that, but the improved efficiency of 5G will allow the front-of-house and the back-end of operations to be better united, offering retailers a more comprehensive understanding of what stock is where, what is in demand and how they can improve the customer experience.

Data and analytics

To create this personalised, customised experience, retailers are increasingly relying data and analytics.

In the recent retail technology study Wake Up Call for Digital Transformation Intel’s Alex Gefrides noted: “In-store analytics are being applied to every phase of the retail process by determining retail trends, predicting where the demand will be for products, optimizing pricing for a competitive edge, identifying consumer purchasing patterns and behaviors, and other insights for immediate decisions”.

5G will better furnish retailers with the ability to do this in real time.

We’ve only just begun

In reality, 5G is just beginning to be implemented in the US, and its retail potential is yet to be fully explored.

If it delivers just a fraction of what it promises, retail will be poised to better service its consumer, better utilize its resources and better embrace the digital age.

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