6 Ways 5G Connectivity Is Changing Retail

Six ways 5G connectivity is changing in-person shopping.

In-store shopping is back, and consumers are flocking to brick-and-mortar locations to browse and buy.
Despite all the buzz about ecommerce, 72% of consumers still consider in-person shopping as a primary buying method, according to the National Retail Federation.

Incorporating memorable digital engagements into a traditionally physical space is becoming essential to big box retailers aiming to differentiate their brand and align with consumer preferences.

However, the landscape for the modern store has changed as shoppers seek more engaging experiences and increasingly rely on digital tools—and the 5G connectivity that enables them—to enhance their shopping excursions. That creates avenues for retail brands to foster loyalty and build affinity with in-store retail technology that provides frictionless shopping experiences.

Incorporating memorable digital engagements into a traditionally physical space is becoming essential to big box retailers aiming to differentiate their brand and align with consumer preferences. Here are six use cases for digital integration in the 5G retail world that will attract shoppers and boost profits.

The recent reliance on e-commerce means consumers are accustomed to instant gratification with a window to availability, price, and other product features.

1. Frictionless checkout

For stores to match the convenience of online shopping, they must abandon old-school queues and stationary checkouts and begin to embrace new in-store technology powered by 5G. Today the gold standard of frictionless shopping is a transaction that occurs where and when a customer chooses whether they’re interacting with an associate equipped with a mobile point of sale (POS) device or serving themselves at a kiosk or with a scan-and-go solution.

These mobile options serve another vital role by giving shoppers and staff access to the endless aisle, where they can seek product information and check on inventory. The recent reliance on e-commerce means consumers are accustomed to instant gratification with a window to availability, price, and other product features.

For example, equipping a salesperson with a tablet enables them to offer the immediate satisfaction shoppers crave. If a customer tries on a style of pants in black but prefers olive green, the associate can check inventory or order the item for delivery with one tap. Investing in these retail-technologies to ease in-person shopping—along with fast, reliable, and secure 5G retail connectivity that provides a superior experience—allows them to meet consumers where they are to more efficiently close sales.

By using retail technology to leverage information, associates can connect with customers across their shopping journey and meet their expectation for real-time personalization and consumer-aligned branding.

2. In-store personalized experiences

Brands know who is browsing their websites, including purchase history, what other items were considered and what the visitor might be interested in next. Yet when that shopper enters a store, the on-site worker doesn’t immediately know their size or favorite colors unless they’re able to merge online and offline channels.

By using retail technology to leverage information, associates can connect with customers across their shopping journey and meet their expectation for real-time personalization and consumer-aligned branding.

Sophisticated digital tools like customer relationship management (CRM) platforms and tablets, which connect associates to shopper purchase history and other stored information, allow salespeople to personalize the shopping trip, especially when backed by 5G retail service that allows for fast access to this saved data. They can access records that allow them to greet the shopper by name, filter their preferences to provide merchandise suggestions and even offer a special discount to complete a sale for items that are lingering in their digital cart.

3. Omnichannel retail

A shopper who’s interacting with your brand physically is also more than likely doing so digitally: The “Future of Shopping” report from Snap found that 44% of shoppers say they would never go shopping without using their cell phone, a percentage that rises to 63% among millennials. This seamless connectivity allows them to access product information but also bridges in-store and online channels.

When consumers conduct initial research or begin a purchase online, they want the ability to continue or complete it in the store. A reliable connection is optimal for a satisfying encounter. Picture a shopper who’s using their device to download an offer from a wholesale warehouse’s loyalty app but is holding up the line while they wait to connect. That shopper is unlikely to renew their membership or come back because it wasn’t a positive experience. A fast connection also creates the potential for new digital-meets-in-store experiences, like scanning barcodes to see 3D interactive models of products or scanning QR codes that open chat windows with bots that answer questions and provide context about products.

Customers expect seamless connectivity in the parking lot—especially when using buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), which soared during the pandemic.

4. Curbside pickup

Not only are consumers likely to use their device in the store, but they also expect seamless connectivity in the parking lot—especially when using buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), which soared during the pandemic. Originally embraced to combat health and safety concerns, BOPIS quickly became a channel of choice in the frictionless retail experience because of its convenience.

While many retailers initially pivoted on the fly to offer the service, BOPIS logistics have evolved, and customers no longer tolerate a subpar encounter. Now there’s a growing expectation the store will know when a customer has arrived—whether because of geofence technology in the app or a connected camera that alerts the store’s team to bring out their order.

Shoppers’ reliance on BOPIS’ speedy service will remain, which gives big box retailers the opportunity to energize the experience as a point of differentiation. Target, for example, allows customers to order coffee and even make returns via their curbside service to make the service more valuable and convenient for their guests, thereby boosting their reliance on the brand.

5. QR codes

A decade ago, retailers embraced the promise of QR codes on signs and packaging to offer more detail while maintaining a fresh, simple aesthetic. However, many consumers were reluctant to engage. 

Fast forward to today, where the QR code restaurant menu has become ubiquitous thanks to the pandemic. But it’s not just menus. QR codes are used for cashless payments, loyalty programs, surveys and more.

Especially when supported by 5G, in-store technology can change how a store operates, offering a new avenue to quickly communicate with customers about products, services and more.

6. Augmented reality (AR)

The merging of the physical and digital shopping experience will have fewer constraints as connectivity continues to improve. The next big leap in 5G retail technology may be the more frequent use of augmented reality. For example Amazon is reportedly experimenting with smart dressing rooms for its upcoming department stores, and other retailers are offering AR options that allow browsers to virtually apply cosmetics. 

Shoppers are eager to embrace AR opportunities: 35% of U.S. consumers say they “would go out of their way to visit a store if it had interactive virtual services such as a smart mirror that allowed them to try on clothes or makeup.” Establishing the infrastructure to enable these superior experiences will be a logical next investment for retailers looking to stand out.

The promise of smart technology to transform retail.

These six advancements may vary in function, but they have one thing in common: They all require robust, consistent connectivity to deliver a winning experience for shoppers.

With 5G retail technology, brands can differentiate against competition and revolutionize the brick-and-mortar customer engagement with powerful augmented digital experiences by leveraging its speed, low latency and immediate access that are foundational to seamless connectivity. Retailers that fail to invest in the new retail experience risk seeing consumers take their business to a brand that has made it a priority.

Want to improve your retail customer engagement with these use cases? T-Mobile for Business enables retail businesses to merge their digital and physical worlds with the country’s largest and fastest 5G network. Check out our 5GHQ Hub for Retail, or talk to one of our 5G retail experts at 877-590-1813 to learn more.

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