5G is Making On and Offline Retail Fun Again

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5G can bring technology and innovation into the equation helping retailers make data-driven decisions, see the supply chain end to end, and work with customers to curate and build unforgettable experiences.

All things considered, would you rather purchase something in a physical retail store or get it online? If you’re anything like one of Raydiant’s recent survey respondents, you might do a lot of online shopping but really prefer the in-store experience. According to their “State of the In-Store Experience” survey, 48% of consumers want to shop in a physical, brick-and-mortar store.

At the height of eCommerce, just being online was enough to differentiate a brand. Today, brands that want to connect with their customers need to deliver the best of both worlds—the convenience and immediacy of online with personalized touches in person. And thanks to 5G, we’re looking at a new era of retail.

See also: Luxury Brands Embrace AR: Businesses Should Take Note

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Consumer-facing capabilities begin to shine

We’ve noted several sparkling examples of stores delivering high-tech experiences to consumers in the store, but 5G can take this to a new level.

Augmented Reality (AR) as a standard practice

Shopify recently announced that 71% of consumers would shop in-store more often if they could participate in immersive AR experiences. Consumers have frequently participated in AR pop-up experiences or special events, but 5G provides the foundation for a continuous experience in regular store locations.

5G offers a supercharged network that can seamlessly transfer much higher data volumes more quickly, a vital component of offering AR to consumers on a daily basis. Consumers can visualize products in the real world online and then experience products in new and exciting ways in-store. For example, a customer trying on a shirt might change lighting, scenery, or colors to visualize how the shirt will look outside the dressing room. Once they’ve settled on their favorite shirt, AR can suggest accessories or other clothing pieces to complete the look without leaving the dressing room.

From there, the customer can send data to their mobile devices to track purchases and wishlists to buy later. When the time is right, they can find exactly the piece they need online, creating a seamless experience from start to finish.

Smart tagging offers consumers dynamic information

Few things are as frustrating as not having the right information for the desired product. Consumers check inventory online, only to discover the counts are incorrect in-store. They wonder what the difference is between two products and can’t sort it out. Mislabeled or untagged pricing information creates a hassle when something appears to be on sale and isn’t.

RFID tags provide consumers with dynamic information for each desired product. Smart shelving can help retailers keep up with inventory more accurately, and consumers can find out everything they need to know about a product from start to finish with a simple mobile device.

Even more interesting, these smart tags could personalize information to each shopper through 5G data transfers. Customers can connect to the network and discover more about each product, from where it came from to how it’s made and more. More people than ever want to purchase things that align with their values and may be more willing to pay a premium. Smart tags enable this type of personalized shopping.

Behind the scenes—fewer disruptions

Consumers will find stores reimaged as curated experiences, but that’s not all that’s happening. These experiences require heavy lifting behind the scenes to ensure everything happens seamlessly on the floor. 5G makes that magic a little easier.

Supply chain optimization

AR doesn’t help customer experiences if their favorite products aren’t even on the shelves. Retail brands are global now, with supply chain partners across the world. When one piece of the puzzle doesn’t align, the entire picture is lost.

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5G allows supply chain partners to analyze and share data in near real time to make better product predictions. Retail stores can better analyze demand based on trends now, rather than historical forecasting, and pivot quickly to account for disruptions.

Those smart RFID tags can reduce manual documentation and alert manufacturers sooner to potential mishaps. Cloud-based backend systems become more manageable because 5G ensures fast transmissions of massive data. And brands gain visibility into the entire supply chain around the clock.

Frictionless, optimized store setups

Stores can also use 5G data transfers to create network webs that enable frictionless experiences. Checkout is a particular challenge for many stores. Too many cashiers and machines stay idle. Too few and stores end up with agitated customers right at the end of their experience.

Contactless payments could be on the rise. Amazon piloted a store where customers simply grabbed what they needed and walked out—mimicking their transformative “one-click” purchasing online. In fact, a majority of consumers would love to see some form of contactless payments in their favorite stores.

Stores can also apply the same types of traffic principles to their physical stores as they do to online shopping. Stores can track (anonymously) customer patterns through the store, analyze inventory levels, and optimize product placement to build truly consumer-friendly shopping locations.

What are we building? A bridge from online retail to off

5G will begin to close the gap between online experiences and those in-store. Consumers are already used to shopping around in both worlds, but the new network allows stores to curate those experiences for customers. In addition, 5G will bring analytics to the physical world in ways not previously possible, thanks to continuous connections.

As retailers look for ways to stand out in a global economy, 5G can bring technology and innovation into the equation. They’ll make data-driven decisions, see the supply chain end to end, and work with customers to curate and build unforgettable experiences. Thanks to low latency and increased connectivity, we’ll enter a new retail era soon.

Elizabeth Wallace

About Elizabeth Wallace

Elizabeth Wallace is a Nashville-based freelance writer with a soft spot for data science and AI and a background in linguistics. She spent 13 years teaching language in higher ed and now helps startups and other organizations explain - clearly - what it is they do.

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