The 5G era of retail

4 ways 5G in Retail will advance frictionless shopping.

The 5G revolution has begun, ushering retailers into a new era of productivity, profitability, and consumer understanding. Technologies powered by 5G unlock more ways for customers to access products, experience digital services, execute cashless payments, and much more.

The future of the retail industry starts with 5G.

Digital experiences enabled by 5G are already reshaping traditional shopping behaviors. For example, customers now demand that stores offer more services and products that align with their individual expectations and personal preferences. In fact, 72% of U.S. consumers believe it is important to buy from companies that reflect their personal values.1

Customized engagements leverage the benefits of both physical stores and immersive shopping platforms to improve customer experiences. Fast, reliable 5G powers new wireless devices and technologies capable of monitoring product shelves and inventory levels in real time. And 5G delivers swift customer feedback and interactions, instantly conducting secure payments almost anywhere in the world.

In a recent survey by Wipro, 89% of retailers say they use technology to improve customer experiences.2 By enabling massive amounts of data to seamlessly flow across wireless networks, 5G helps retailers better understand and serve their customers.

The retail industry is at the forefront of a movement to accelerate and improve shopping experiences.

How 5G is reinventing the customer shopping experience.

The retail industry is at the forefront of a movement to accelerate and improve shopping experiences. Growth in retail will increasingly rely on seamless, high-speed internet connectivity and the evolving technology enabled by 5G.

Here are four ways that 5G-fueled technologies are helping power, define, and advance the future of retail engagements:

1.     Unleashed inventory management potential
Customers today expect more choices as they shop—whether they’re in a physical store, using a personal device such as a smartphone, laptop, or tablet, or navigating a hybrid of the two. For example, a customer trying on clothes or makeup in a brick-and-mortar store will use their smartphone to compare online prices and styles.

Low-latency, high-capacity 5G helps retailers stay competitive by powering improvements in key processes, providing shoppers with more options while limiting inventory. The “endless aisle” provides in-store opportunities for customers to virtually browse and order items that are out of stock or not normally carried in-store, letting retailers offer more options without adding physical inventory.

The unrestrained inventory potential of online shopping has led to a massive boom in the retail industry. In the U.S., e-commerce is expected to reach $1 trillion in 2022.3 In response, retailers are investing in omni-channel strategies—a multi-channel approach to selling via a combination of apps, online shopping, and brick and mortar—allowing them to feature a broader selection of products and tailor brand experiences to individual behaviors, preferences, and budgets. By creating multiple personalized engagements and regular positive online and in-person experiences, retailers can greatly enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. A recent survey shows that 52% of consumers plan to use a mixture of shopping in-store and online in future shopping experiences.4

As customers look for a wider variety of products, they also expect to quickly and conveniently pick up and return those products. Faster 5G enhances features like Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) and free online returns. Improving frictionless shopping methods that align with customers’ schedules and time constraints.

2.     Immersive retail experiences
5G opens the door for advanced technologies like augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) to display products in enhanced virtual environments. QR codes are now creating more opportunities to educate the customer on key features, using AR to bring products to life on a customer’s personal device. In the wake of COVID-19, virtual, touchless experiences have become even more popular as consumers develop new sensitivities to physical contact and interactions.
These innovative experiences increase in-store purchases and encourage customers to browse and explore more products, generating higher overall sales revenue. According to Shopify, 71% of consumers say they would shop at a retailer more often if it offered immersive AR experiences.5 Additional research shows that 55% of consumers think AR makes the retail experience exciting, creating higher-value engagements and more incentives for shoppers to buy.6
AR/VR experiences, however, won’t completely replace the need for in-person service. Customers value person-to-person interactions with store employees as they seek advice, opinions, and savings opportunities. Immersive shopping experiences are not exclusively digital experiences, and retailers are adopting a multi-level approach to address customer expectations across the spectrum of engagement opportunities.
3.     Seamlessly connected devices
Today, nearly every in-store customer has direct access to online shopping with just a swipe of their thumb. 5G helps retailers use this connectivity to their advantage with high-data speeds, impacting how customers set expectations, plan their shopping journeys, and interact with products and salespeople. Retailers are increasingly outfitting their stores with Internet of Things (IoT) devices like digital signage, which delivers personalized information tailored to each customer as they enter a store. Heat mapping deployed to optimize merchandising and traffic flow and improve the ROI is now key to success as retail spaces transform into micro-fulfillment centers. IoT devices can also communicate with customer smartphones to offer easy navigation tools, allowing customers to quickly locate the product they’re looking for.

A recent report from Oracle found that 88 percent of retailers say using IoT will provide better customer insights than any other data gathering method, and half of retailers are already using IoT solutions to improve their supply chain.

In addition, the information collected from customer purchases helps retailers stay on top of consumer buying trends—influencing everything from inventory management to allocation of store resources.

Connected devices and technologies like smart shelves can use RFID tags and wireless beacons to measure when inventory is low, track trends in real time, and preemptively alert staff when to restock shelves. This attention to detail elevates customer service and provides reliable access to products, leading to increased customer loyalty, purchases, and store revenue.

As connected technologies for retail evolve, so too will the need for larger, faster wireless networks. The 5G expansion will deliver massive capacity, enabling IoT devices to sync online and in-store sales more seamlessly and automate processes that support logistics, data analytics, and back-end operations, all while improving visibility across inventory and delivery systems. A recent report from Oracle found that 88% of retailers say using IoT will provide better customer insights than any other data gathering method, and half of retailers are already using IoT solutions to improve their supply chain.7

4.     Contactless payments with improved security
Retail customers expect fast, easy, and frictionless shopping processes. Compared to 4G speeds, 5G is generally up to 3X faster nationally, and up to 7X faster where Ultra Capacity 5G is available. 5G can also offer increased bandwidth with greater data capacity, dramatically increasing speed and giving customers more control over how, when, and where they choose to pay. Contactless payments are becoming the new normal for retail customers; in fact, a recent report found that 80% of consumers used some form of contactless payment in 2021.8

This shift in payment preferences is also attributed to an increase in trust by customers as they regularly and successfully use online payment platforms. Robust data encryption makes it harder for hackers to manipulate wireless networks, significantly reducing identity theft and fraudulent behavior. More payments are also being authorized through biometric technology like facial recognition and fingerprint readers—all of which rely on powerful data connections that can be achieved through 5G. In the future, 5G network slicing will contribute to added security by breaking down networks into smaller segments, allowing for the deployment of stronger security measures and offering an even higher level of payment protection.

We built our 5G network to give you an advantage today and tomorrow.

With America’s largest and fastest 5G network, T-Mobile® for Business is here to help retailers like you unlock the possibilities of 5G now and prepare for the emerging use cases of the future.

We offer a collaborative approach, building customized solutions so your retail business can get ahead of the 5G curve faster. Lean into 360° support from a team of experts dedicated to helping you enhance the customer experience and improve operational efficiency.

T-Mobile for Business has an ambitious vision for fueling innovation in retail. To continue exploring 5G-fueled transformations across the retail ecosystem, visit our 5G Retail industry webpage today.

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