5G and the retail revolution

BY Australian Retailers Association
13 March 2020

5G is set to revolutionise the retail sector by providing innovative technologies and solutions. As the network continues to roll out across Australia, forward-thinking retailers should look to embrace 5G sooner than later.

5G is coming. With it comes a suite of new technologies and opportunities that will impact the way consumers engage with brands and businesses. Like any new technology, it’s about evolution, not revolution. But, for forward-thinking retailers that embrace 5G sooner rather than later, the opportunities are huge.

So, what is 5G?

While 3G allowed mobile devices to browse the internet and 4G powered mobile video and gaming, among other things, 5G will bring further advancements to the network, opening up new opportunities to engage with customers via their smartphones.

5G smartphones have already begun launching and, for most people, this will act as a direct gateway to 5G capabilities. As the technology and network mature, we can expect to see much faster download speeds, 4K, and 8K video streaming, lower latency, and the emergence of augmented and virtual reality applications.

5G will afford new opportunities for almost every sector, and retail is no different. It’s conceivable that the bricks-and-mortar experience over the next few years will be fundamentally different from how it is today.

The new communications technology will also drastically improve e-commerce, meaning retailers will need to utilise this new technology on both their online and offline platforms.

A personal shopping experience

While 5G will allow for faster internet speeds, a key improvement is latency reduction. Latency is the time it takes for data to be sent from one device to another. 4G latency is around 60 milliseconds; 5G has the potential to be under one millisecond.

In other words, phones and other internet-connected devices will be able to analyse their environments millisecond-by-millisecond. This provides many opportunities for retailers.

For instance, offline shopping will become much more about the experience. By powering facial recognition, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and more, 5G will digitise bricks-and-mortar stores, creating the ultimate hybrid experience. Retailers will more easily be able to gather data to create customer profiles and create personalised experiences.

The 5G experience will start before customers enter the store. For example, screens placed behind store-front windows could react in real-time to potential customers walking by, with facial recognition technology allowing for tailored greetings for repeat or VIP customers. This is important, as half of the Australian shoppers surveyed by Mood Media for a recent study say they’ve been attracted into clothing stores due to window or inside-screen content.

5G will also power smarter artificial intelligence, so machines will be better at making decisions like humans. This means mirrors in clothing store change rooms (or your phone camera) can be turned into sophisticated virtual shopping assistants. After trying on a shirt, you could tell the virtual assistant that it’s a little too tight on the shoulders or short by the arms. Based on your customer profile, the brand and size of the current shirt, it could recommend a different size or a similar shirt from another brand that would be a better fit.

Finally, 5G-powered augmented reality (AR) promises fantastic new benefits. AR refers to applications which layer information on top of a camera’s field of vision. 5G will greatly improve a smartphone’s ability to recognise objects. Customers could browse through a grocery store with an AR app on their 5G phone that differentiates which products adhere to dietary needs, like gluten or sugar-free, for instance.

More convenient e-commerce

Well-utilised 5G technology will make bricks-and-mortar shopping more of an experience. This is essential, as the new generation will focus on improving online shopping.

While it’s true that 5G’s most significant benefits will come from reduced latency, the increased internet speeds it promises are also important. According to Google, 53% of mobile users leave a site if one of its pages takes more than three seconds to load. The reduced wait times 5G will bring, could lead to significant growth in the online retail sector. Research from Adobe Digital Insights, suggests that mobile-based retail through 5G could add as much as $12 billion in the US alone.

Further, the same technology that will allow in-store AR to flourish applies to mobile and online shopping. As adoption of AR apps and virtual reality headsets expands, customers will be able to yield many traditional benefits of bricks-and-mortar shopping virtually, like trying on clothing or experiencing how a piece of furniture fits in a room.

For instance, many of us know what it feels like to buy a great piece of furniture only to find it looks out of place in our home. AR will allow you to virtually ‘try out’ that couch, table or house plant by intelligently placing it in a room and allowing you to view it on your smartphone.

Right now we’re on the cusp of 5G, and it is expected to undergo further enhancements in 2021. Retailers need to understand both the online and offline implications of 5G.

To ignore 5G is to ignore huge opportunity.

Company bio:

For the last decade, OPPO has focused on manufacturing camera phones, while innovating mobile technology breakthroughs. With a presence in over 40 countries and regions, 6 research institutes and 4 R&D centres, the company focuses on providing high-end features at a desirable price point. Its most recent smartphone, Reno 5G, marks the first 5G handset for OPPO, and is currently the most affordable 5G smartphone on the Australian market. For more information, visit: oppo.com/au

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Australian Retailers Association

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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