The 5G retail revolution: Decluttered supply chains and a speedy ‘phygital’ customer experience

Impact of 5G in retail

2022 has kickstarted with yet another COVID-19 variant in tow. While 2020 brought with it the stay-at-home consumer and retail routines disrupted by a new and unknown virus, 2021 has been equally challenging for retailers, if not more. Global supply chains underwent massive stress with sudden demand surges, inventory shortfalls, labor shortages, and sporadic outbreaks. Supply chain disruptions will be one key challenge retailers will continue to grapple with this year.  

With consumer spending and shopping behaviors rapidly changing every month, pandemic fatigue has hit the retail industry hard. Retailers are now catering to increasingly conscious post-pandemic consumers who have tightened their spending. With supply chain disturbances causing enough chaos and disappointment, offering a seamless multichannel customer experience will be an important step on the road to recovery. 

Even with the pandemic seeing a record number of store closures at its height and prompting an e-commerce boom, 2021 was a turning point for retailers. Coresight Research indicates that major retailers announced 5,083 store openings as opposed to 5,079 store closures – a sign that retailers may finally be reaching a balance between in-store and online shopping. To address declining in-store footfall, the next generation in retail calls for enhanced ‘phygital’ (combining the physical and digital) interactive customer experiences made possible by incorporating 5G in retail. 

How can retailers and CPG firms moonwalk into the coming year? 

5G networks can be a potential game-changer for retailers eager to deliver more value and gain actionable insights. 

phygital experiences- 5G in retail

Today, digital retail strategies utilize a combination of connectivity technologies like WiFi, 4G, RFID, NFC, and Bluetooth among others. The need for reliable, faster, device-inclusive connectivity has greatly influenced retailers to work towards offering personalized, convenient, and customer-friendly experiences and services. 

With data-rich analytical capabilities, 5G not only lowers latency and processes large chunks of data at ultra-high speeds, but the large-scale device connectivity it offers also has the potential to create interactive physical-digital experiences. Firms can reinvent the retail experience – enabling faster, innovative, convenient, and transparent processes. In fact, in a recent instance, Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile US launched a T-Challenge calling for innovative ideas in 5G-powered extended-reality (XR) solutions set to transform both the in-store and at-home retail experience. Launched with a vision to forge renewed customer experiences that have both ‘practical and human-centric applications’, this sets forth a new revolution in the shopping experience realm. 

From merchandising, store experience, to point of sale, advancements in 5G connectivity and its integration in retail provide a host of interesting opportunities. Most importantly, this will bring to light a transformative impact in two key retail areas: 

Optimizing supply chain efficiency with cableless connections

March 23, 2021, saw one of the biggest supply chain disruptions to date when a stranded Evergreen container ship blocked navigation in Egypt’s Suez Canal en-route China. What followed was 6 days of a collective international effort to clear the waters, a barrage of trending memes, and months of supply chain bottlenecks.

As 2021 progressed, with unpredictable demand and supply, sporadic pandemic outbreaks and recovery, and natural disasters among other events, the supply chain crisis only worsened. While it will definitely take some time to stabilize, what can catalyze the process for an efficient end-to-end supply chain? 

Here’s where 5G solutions in retail can help declutter the mess and provide visibility.  Enhanced connectivity powered by 5G enables the implementation of technologies that can streamline workflows, reduce downtime, and help in inventory management. For instance, smart shelving powered by RFID (Radio-frequency identification) technology, can help track when items were purchased and when they need to be replaced. Efficiently tackling the issue of misplaced or out-of-stock products, can save retailers precious manual labor time. 

The data accuracy and timeliness that 5G solutions offer leads to cost-efficiency, agility, and confidence across the supply chain. Cableless connection opportunities presented by 5G are an added bonus in rural areas that were previously limited.  

Studies indicate that 69% of US consumers refuse to purchase from a retailer citing late delivery. Implementing 5G technologies, together with other technologies like AI, IoT, blockchain, and cloud-based solutions can address such last-mile hassles. Retailers can track packages, foresee potential shipping delays and capitalize on real-time data to optimize shipping routes – leading to a hyperconnected, seamless, and speedy supply process. 

Delivering hybrid ‘phygital’ shopping experiences capitalizing on immersive  technologies

A multisensory shopping experience is what will redefine customer relationships in the years to come. Today’s consumer has grown accustomed to advanced interactive technologies. Capitalizing on recent technology innovations to create a holistic shopping experience rather than a mere transaction can push your brand ahead of the game. From magic mirrors that use VR and AR to virtually try on clothing and sample beauty products without contact, to gamification possibilities like Burberry’s collaboration with Snapchat to witness their Animal Kingdom come to life by scanning codes; retailers can reimagine their customer experience. IKEA’s app IKEA Place, for instance, lets you virtually place the 3D models of the products in your own space to try and test how they will look in your space. Implementing dynamic AR/VR experiences requires large amounts of computing power and low latency which can only be smoothly facilitated by 5G networks.

Magic mirrors- 5G in retail
Source: WWD

Further, vast amounts of customer data collected through 5G can be used for targeted retail marketing and personalized recommendations. 

Imagine this entirely immersive technological shopping experience powered by 5G and backed by customer consent: As a customer walks past your storefront, the technology immediately senses them and a smart 5G-enabled window display virtually clothes them in the latest fashion aligned with their predicted preferences.

With 5G, execution of possibilities abound. From sensor fusion technologies that can automate shopping carts and facilitate a self-service kiosk, to wearable technologies like the Apple Watch and FitBits. Retailers can re-imagine shopping into a memorable experience and redefine customer engagement to build brand loyalty and drive long-term revenue.

From pre-purchase sales techniques to post-purchase customer care, 5G thus becomes an important enabler for retailers looking to develop new omnichannel customer relationships. Further, IoT-based facial recognition solutions even provide retailers with demographic information that equips them to monitor in-store footfall. This not only serves as a security measure in the face of shoplifters and other suspicious activities but also helps retailers gauge conversion rates.

Retailers can make the most of the 5G boom today to drive greater engagement and loyalty among in-store customers. Faster network connections have the potential to create more cohesive digital and physical shopping experiences tailored to each consumer’s unique needs and preferences. 

Not just this, 5G opens doors to a variety of innovative retail techniques that can be explored (cue the pop-up). In fact, Forrester’s research states that 5G has the potential to accelerate transformation in retail with frictionless end-to-end consumer experiences cemented by its enhanced connectivity and low-latency communication. 
The future is here and it is now. The hyper-competitive and dynamic nature of the consumer goods industry demands that companies be in-step with the changing trends and consumer behavior. Keep pace with today’s shifting market landscape with Netscribes’ technology and competitive market intelligence solutions. To know more about how we can help your firm stay ahead of the curve, contact us.

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