As customer shopping experiences are increasingly shaped by fast, transparent and convenient services, retailers are facing what feels like a Darwinian moment, where those who are able to make timely changes will most likely stay successful in a dynamic and hypercompetitive environment. 5G may hold the key to that change.

5G in a nutshell

As the next generation of network, 5G offers network speeds at least 10 times faster than 4G as well as bolstered capacity. Capable of delivering up to 1,000 times more capacity than 4G, 5G can handle more devices and increased data traffic capacity in the booming Internet of Things. It also comes with extremely low latency, which is the delay between when a command is issued and when it’s received by the end-user. Whereas 4G latency is around 40 to 60 milliseconds, 5G has the potential to reach one millisecond.

This means that on a consumer level, 5G can make digital shopping much faster and more convenient than 4G or Wi-Fi, whether that is checking into stores, loading a photo or making instant mobile payments. What’s more, the defining characteristic of 5G is its potential to unlock innovations unachievable to its predecessors. That might give retailers just that edge to stand out with an exceptional customer experience.

Immersive experiences through AR and VR

Thanks to 5G’s unparalleled handling of tremendous processing power and cellular data, the AR and VR market is expected to grow in the next few years. Incorporating AR and VR in a retail environment can help retailers to foster experience-driven sales both online and offline, while also tapping into the consumer mindset of entertainment and exploration. For instance, using an AR app on their phone, consumers can view how a piece of furniture fits at home before making a purchase, or see how a garment may look on them virtually while shopping online.

Personalised shopping experience

Consumers value brands that embrace personalisation. This is an area that can be easily overlooked, as some retailers could inadvertently overwhelm customers with too many products in a bid to introduce their full range of offerings. Research from Comestri shows that one third of customers could abandon relationships with a business if a personalisation factor is lacking. 

We are already seeing simple personalisation marketing methods, such as product recommendations and birthday discounts. 5G networks can take this a step further, leveraging AI and machine learning to facilitate more creative services, such as omnichannel shopper profile and history, personalised product placement and in-store virtual assistants. 5G also paves the way for gamification, turning the shopping experience from a one-way communication into a fun two-way interaction with personalised rewards.

Smart inventory and logistics

On the operations side, 5G can drive inventory and logistics productivity by leveraging more accurate and timely data. This is especially important in the COVID-19 pandemic, where online shopping has surged and affected traffic patterns across the nation. 5G’s massive Machine Type Communications can provide real-time updates on stock replenishment, product shelf-life and parcel tracking. This not only helps keep retailers and suppliers accountable, but also offers consumers transparency at all stages and a strong reason to return for future purchases.

In a world where consumers become more tech-savvy and where a retailer’s reputation hinges greatly on its digital capabilities, a seamless, frictionless and enjoyable customer experience is vital to business success. Retailers ought to start building the foundation to meet growing demands for faster network speed, personalised and experience-driven shopping. A 5G-centric strategy would be the place to start.

Michael Tran is managing director of OPPO Australia.