#RetailTrends2020: 5G takes customer experience into fifth gear

The 5G revolution feels like it’s been a long time coming. As the commercial rollout gathers pace in 2020, we can expect to see forward-thinking brands make use of the new network capabilities to create new and improved experiences for their customers. Not only will we see faster, smoother and more reliable mobile browsing, 5G’s massive bandwidth and speed will be able to connect billions of devices and sensors and stream data hungry technologies like AI, face recognition and extended reality, at scale and in real time. The impact on retail marketing could be game changing.

Mobile opportunity will soar

Mobile has well and truly established itself as the consumer’s digital channel of choice for browsing and overtook desktop as the primary source of digital revenue in April 2019. But the ability to browse and buy from anywhere at any time has created a challenge for retailers. With so much choice at their fingertips and shoppers always on the hunt for bargains, people are less tied to the brands they already know and trust. in a 5G world, however, mobile could also provide the antidote.

The opportunity of 5G offers something far more exciting than smoother mobile browsing and content streaming when it comes to customer experience. The fifth-generation mobile network gives retailers the chance to truly redefine the shopping experience and dissolve the barriers between the physical and digital world in ways that are brilliantly creative and offer whole new ways for people to engage with both products and brands.

5G augments our retail realities

5G has the power to stream augmented and virtual reality experiences to mobile devices in real-time, something 4G can’t reliably support and may be just what retailers need to grab the attention of those who love to shop using their mobiles on-the-go. We’ve seen a few brands dabble using AR to overlay products on a person or space. People can see if a pair of glasses will suit them or check out a pair of trainers on their feet. In-built AI features will even measure their foot to take the guesswork out of size ordering.

It won’t be long before these technologies become mainstream – according to Gartner, before 2020 is out, 100 million consumers could be shopping with the help of AR online and in store.

The high street makes its return

Thanks to 5G, we’ll see digital transform bricks-and-mortar stores, giving shoppers a reason to return to the high street. Retailers will be able to offer each person entering a tailored experience of the shop. Digital advertising displays could stream targeted ads to browsing customers and big chain stores can use kiosks to connect shoppers via video call to a central ‘call centre’ of product experts who offer virtual ‘face-to-face’ assistance.

“Magic mirrors” in fitting rooms that recognise the garment the shopper is trying on, whether through AI or via sensors that detect embedded RFIDs, can display product information like price, materials, care instructions or share suggestions for matching accessories or alternative options in case that product isn’t quite right. Using touch screens in the mirror, shoppers could request those products or alternative sizes delivered to the changing room, without having to track down an assistant or go back out onto the shop floor.

5G networks provide the connective tissue to support the large array of sensor devices needed to send and receive vast amounts of data that monitor a store in granular detail and connect it in the retailer’s wider supply and logistics ecosystem. Sensors on the store shelves can alert staff when items need replenishing or trigger a new stock order from the central warehouse, ensuring retailers avoid the types of inconveniences that cause them to miss out on sales or that drive consumers to shop around online.

Real time omnichannel strategies

By now, retailers understand the importance of omnichannel – Adobe’s digital insights show that almost three-quarters (73%) of shoppers use multiple channels before making a purchase, and retailers with a true omnichannel presence see 13% higher spend on average.

5G will help retailers make better use of the data they already have and also give them ways to collect data from traditionally ‘non-digital’ channels, like physical retail spaces. The increasingly advanced insights will mean they can understand customers far better and design omnichannel shopping strategies that people will love.

Those that prioritise 5G powered retail transformation in 2020 stand to set the new bar in shopper’s eyes and will be rewarded with brand loyalty and devoted, repeat clients – essential in today’s fickle retail environment.