Technology & Innovation

15 Apr 2021

How the retail industry can rebound using 5G technology’s potential


Widely touted as the revolutionary smart technology of the decade, 5G is envisioned to give retailers a lifeline in the new normal where digitalization precedes real-life experience.

The brick-and-mortar retail industry suffered an unprecedented blow in 2020 with the pandemic forcing people to stay at home and amid declining purchasing power from consumers hit hard by the economic and social challenges that the Coronavirus brought forth.

Thousands of shops, fashion retail stores in particular, were forced to shut down due to the situation.  Major global retail stores in various industries also shifted their focus on online sales with consumer behaviour shifting to e-Commerce. 

Experts said there’s no other way for retailers to survive but to adapt to the new normal in the digital world where hybrid consumerism is apparent—online stores combined with some brick-and-mortar retailers.

5G, the fifth generation of connectivity is seen to further boost Internet speed and capacity, and that is believed to redefine the retail industry and turn things around provided store owners play their cards right.

How will this work for retailers? In so many ways, but in a nutshell, 5G will consummate a fruitful customer relationship in a manner never seen before.

Consider this: A recent study showed that 89% of retailers depend on technology to improve customer experience while 96% invest in technology to further develop operational efficiencies. 

In other words, retailers are focused on what they see as two main aspects of doing business – customer satisfaction through shopping experience on one hand; and efficient operations on the other.

5G can deliver on this through the following:

  • Immersive store experience through augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies which require a high level of processing power and mobile data.  
  • In-store experience amplification, for instance, the “magic mirror” that can attract window shoppers and help them make decisions searching for the latest apparel, inform the sales staff to bring out different stocks. Furthermore, 5G can make face-to-face virtual assisted shopping possible. It’s like Cinderella herself looking in the mirror and asking if she is the fairest of them all; only this time the mirror will say she’d look a lot better if she has this necklace instead, or a pair of shoes that won’t fall when the clock strikes 12. And then the sales staff are alerted and run to her with the mirror’s recommendations.
  • IoT solutions, which take things a notch higher by notifying retailers about the demographics of the footfall at a particular time. 

Further, IoT solutions can likewise provide a quick review of what sentiment store visitors have toward a particular product on display. IoT solutions can also monitor orders and delays; identify shoplifters and alert stakeholders through facial recognition of the suspects and CCTV video feeds.

It also brings the warehouse closer to the store outlets, in a manner of speaking, through a formidable tracking and inventory system that saves the day because retailers are always kept abreast of their stock – be it food or clothing – and thus are able to avoid instances when a customer’s preference is out of stock, which is bad for business.

In short, IoT solutions is the magic of magics!

The future looks bright. But how can retailers be best prepared?

Experts suggest that store owners take note of the following and embrace digital transformation through 5G.  

  • An understanding of the market and its segments as well as products and service innovations that 5G technology will deliver.
  • Product positioning in synch with customer behavior for a seamless shopping experience where 5G facilitates excellent customer-retailer relationship.
  • Addressing connectivity issues through increased bandwidth to allow for new apps; private network or more popularly referred to in IT jargon as the Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) to deliver a high-quality network experience; and partnership with fellow retailers to allow telecom companies to install 5G antennas in the stores, among others.

Modern times require a fresh innovative approach. The game-changing technology has arrived and it is just a matter of optimizing it for retailers to stay highly competitive. 

Experts strongly suggest a roadmap to get things off the ground as 5G makes it even more possible to make all aspects of the trade measurable – from swift access to real-time operations to easy tracking of products, pricing, inventory and customer satisfaction – for a more methodical approach promising new opportunities and further growth.

After all, 5G in the retail industry is a journey and retailers could either bail out and lose opportunities for a better revenue stream or make investments to stay in the game and be the next Jeff Bezos.