By Tony Judd, MD UK&I, Verizon.
The unrelenting march of technology slows no sign of slowing. However, every innovative piece of technology and cutting-edge experience that emerges onto the scene needs something to power it – and businesses need a network that can manage the vast amount of data required by these exciting applications. The solution is 5G.
The retail sector, in particular, has long been the home of experimental technology, a playground for pioneering customer experiences. With 5G-enabled applications, it’s no different. Retailers are constantly on the hunt for new ways to innovate and personalise the customer experience, while also improving how their own business runs.
Excitingly, 5G has the potential to not only enrich customer-facing experiences in retail, but also transform back-end retail operations to improve productivity and efficiency and ultimately benefit the entire business. Here are five ways retail is set to benefit from the 5G treatment:
1) 5G transforming the retail customer experience
From a front-end perspective, retailers can use 5G to enhance bricks and mortar locations with cutting-edge technology that previous generations simply didn’t have the capacity to support. From digital mirrors that recommend matching outfits, to changing rooms that enable shoppers to virtually try new clothing, without having to physically change.
5G networks help enable retail systems to support these types of innovative technology, handling high data volumes and low latency with ease. This creates flawless and personalised experiences that will not only drive more sales, but also boost brand loyalty through encouraging repeat custom.
2) Back-end business operations also set to benefit
From a back-end perspective, 5G can also help improve critical areas of a retailer’s business operations. For example, retailers could automatically calculate inventory weight using smart shelves, firing off purchase orders to vendors and suppliers when stock is running low.
Remember, a more productive and efficient back end almost always translates into a better experience for the end customer. For example, many retailers are beginning to use RFID tags on products, which automatically scan and log product information, charging a customer’s digital wallet as they leave the store. This removes the need for lengthy check-out queues, often the biggest bugbear in the shopping experience.
3) Providing the next generation in payment methods
5G can also help enable a much more mobile (in both senses of the word) way to manage and process payments. Already, many retailers are using 5G applications that can transform almost any smartphone into a device that’s capable of accepting and processing payments.
This on-the-go solution enables quick and convenient payment options, meaning retailers can do business from pretty much any location that has decent signal.
4) Empowering small business digital readiness
And it’s not just big retail brands that are set to enjoy the benefits of 5G. SMEs are exploring new use cases and 5G application to drive greater efficiencies and effectiveness in their online operations to meet customer needs.
For example, many SMEs are using 5G to power simplified checkout experiences, eliminating the need for customers to repeatedly enter payment details manually. This helps make the checkout process across devices and channels seamless and convenient.
5) Powering a remote retail workforce
A retail business is only as its strong weakest link, and with the supply chain often comprising multiple vendors and suppliers, spanning different time zones and currencies, it’s critical that all these facets work seamlessly together.
5G networks will help enable new services and applications – such as Artificial Intelligence and machine learning technology – to run smoothly by providing resilient large bandwidth pipes with low latency responsiveness.
As a result, retailers have the potential to take advantage of automation and algorithms that boost the transparency and efficiency of inventory management and the overall supply chain. Automating these functions through algorithms is a huge step for retailers. It will allow them to manage much of their business remotely, yielding massive productivity gains, as well as significant time and cost savings.
The 5G revolution has only just begun…
Armed with 5G networks, retailers find themselves at the forefront of an exciting new era, dominated by new, innovative technologies that boast blazingly-fast speeds, unrivalled levels of reliability, and the ability to collect more data than ever.
All of this, combined with the exciting use cases explored above, provide just a flavour of what we can expect over the coming years when it comes to retail leveraging the full power of 5G.