Retail Apocalypse Or Revolution? How 5G Will Change How We Shop
Feb 7, 2020, 07:00am
POST WRITTEN BY
Max is VP of Mobility & IoT at MetTel, where he leads mobile & IoT operations and related business development initiatives.
Sure, many of the store closures are attributed to a few major retailers filing for bankruptcy and the rise of e-commerce, but one thing is clear: The battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of retail shoppers is at an all-time high.
I spend a large part of my day meeting with customers who are looking for solutions to their most pressing mobility issues. Retailers make up a large part of that, and they are typically one of the industries that is always on the lookout for ways to embrace technology to enhance the customer experience.
For sales, marketing and business development professionals looking to grow their retail business, attract new customers and increase their customers’ loyalty, emerging 5G technology could help set you apart from your competitors. The advent of 5G will offer innovative advances that retailers can embrace and, in turn, drive more foot traffic, increase revenue and create an engaging shopping experience. While it will take years for us to fully realize the benefits of 5G, it is important that retailers consider this tech in a time when the fate of retail remains to be seen.
For starters, 5G will be much more powerful than our current 4G networks — much faster speeds, almost no latency (the time between when information is sent and when it is received) and probably most importantly, 5G’s ability to power and enable emerging technologies like IoT and virtual reality.
Pop-Up Stores And Flexible Retailing
Pop-up stores are estimated to be an $80 billion business for retailers. But it’s not just retailers or online sellers that are taking advantage of this low-commitment, low-cost way to market your brand.
At the beginning of 2019, Lord & Taylor closed its Fifth Avenue location but opened a pop-up store in the SoHo neighborhood through Christmas. The Lord & Taylor pop-up, at approximately 2,400 square feet, is a fraction of its typical 120,000 square foot stores. According to CNN, “SoHo has become a hub for retailers experimenting with the pop-up store format.”
5G will enable pop-up stores to deliver a full consumer experience, enabling retailers and marketers with the ability to provide a full omnichannel experience, quickly connecting the digital and the physical in a portable telecommunications infrastructure that doesn’t require wired services. Additionally, 5G’s low latency and fast speeds will power everything from payment transactions to streaming video.
While physical retailers will benefit from 5G, so too will online retailers. While still in early stages of both commercial and consumer adoption, 5G is poised to accelerate the use of immersive technologies such as augmented, virtual and mixed reality for retailers. Immersive technologies like augmented, virtual and mixed reality demand lots of processing power and mobile data.
Many retailers, including IKEA, Toms Shoes and The North Face, are already using immersive technologies to enhance the consumer experience. For example, customers using IKEA’s app, IKEA Place, can try before they buy, enabling them to “virtually place true-to-scale 3-D models in [their] very own space.” So now, using augmented reality, you can see what that Knarrevik nightstand will look like next to your bed before purchasing it.
5G will enable more retailers to create immersive in-store experiences for their customers. 5G’s ability to transmit large amounts of data quickly will speed the use of immersive experiences, allowing consumers to try before they buy in new ways. According to a Gartner report, as soon as 2020, 100 million consumers will be shopping in AR and in-store.
According to findings from PwC’s “In IoT We Trust,” 58% of companies in the retail space have active IoT projects, while 30% have IoT projects in R&D. The report adds that most retails are taking steps to address privacy and data concerns, with 94% saying they believe the benefits outweigh the concerns.
5G will power IoT-connected devices from the warehouse to the store shelf, including tracking shipments in the warehouse, providing a real-time view of stock and powering virtual reality, that for example, can suggest a tie that perfectly matches a shirt and suit a customer is trying on.
Despite all the dire signs of a “retail apocalypse,” for smart retailers who take the time now to map out their 5G strategies and explore how this new technology can be specifically applied to their business, it truly could be a retail revolution, and one of the technological keys that could assist retailers in developing new omnichannel customer relationships, building brand loyalty, enhancing the customer experience and, as a result, driving long-term revenue.