5G is coming. Is your retail business prepared?

5G handset

5G will transform retail

5G ‘fifth generation mobile networks’ is set to launch in the UK as soon as 2019. The retail industry needs to prepare if it is to gain from a world where users can connect no matter where they are and with the exact performance they need.

5G’s promise to deliver ubiquitous connectivity, the so-called network of networks, has far reaching implications for business. Research shows that today’s mobile leaders grow revenue two times faster and add jobs up to eight times faster than laggards. Clearly companies that are slow to adopt new mobile technology will be outpaced.

This is particularly true of retail where 5G will deliver capabilities that are just not possible today. Take the following three examples:

New customer experiences

Shopper using smart phone
5G powered augmented reality will guide customers to product in-store.

Imagine walking into a shop and being guided in real time by augmented reality to the exact location of your desired item. How about walking through a virtual store to make your purchases? 5G will enable these virtual and augmented experiences to take place on a simple handset and at scale, something that is hard to achieve on today’s 4G networks.

Producing realistic imaging for VR and AR cannot be done on a handset alone. They require significant processing power and that calls for cloud-based servers. This content then needs to be delivered back to the handset, at speed, in real time, and to a number of devices. Current 4G networks struggle to support this. 5G, on the other hand, can deliver raw data rates of up to 10Gbps. When combined with technologies like Mobile Edge Computing and Ultra Dense Networking, this is able to deliver high speed, low latency communications to a large number of users simultaneously.

In other words, in a 5G world, every customer in your store will be able to seamlessly and simultaneously use augmented reality on their smartphones to improve their shopping experience.

Advanced logistics management

5G will enable retailers to marshal every last detail of supply chain

Imagine also, that if the precise location of raw materials and goods in a supply chain were known. All the component parts could be marshalled in the right place, exactly when they were needed. The exact provenance of each would also be known, ensuring quality and ethical standards have been met. If all this were possible, the whole supply chain and inventory management system would experience gains in efficiency. Goods would  be safely manufactured and delivered just in time to meet demand.

5G combined with smart technologies will create this possibility. It has the capability to support a trillion low power devices with high mobility, high reliability and availability so this information is always available to businesses.

Smart energy management for retail

Imagine again if the environment in retail facilities could be accurately controlled and the energy use could be tailored to use environmentally friendly, renewable sources. The potential to dramatically reduce energy bills and at the same time protect the environment represents a huge opportunity for retailers to become more competitive and attractive to green consumer sentiment.

5G makes all this possible by creating a ubiquitous network that can connect many disparate networks together and tailor services to manage these as distinct virtual networks. This is truly the network of networks at work.

5G – what should retailers do?

5G is still a little way off being mainstream but how should retailers make sure they are positioned to take advantage of it when it arrives?

First, they need to ask themselves what their 5G world looks like. 
Some things are possible today using 4G, just not at scale. Retailers can prove new services and business models on a small scale using 4G networks in the knowledge that 5G will enable them to scale in the future.

Retailers who have a clearly planned 5G roadmap will enjoy significant advantages over those who don’t. The key thing is to reach out to experts, embrace the possibilities this new world will present and take the first steps on the road to 5G.

About the author

Adrian Braine is an adviser to HOLM and expert in 5G technologies. He is  Entrepreneur in residence for SETsquared, the world leading university run business incubator, CEO and founder of Candescence a company providing innovation, entrepreneurship and go-to-market expertise. This article for HOLM is reproduced on SETsquared’s online news portal techjuice.

About HOLM

HOLM’s in-store personal styling technology matches clothes to customers depending on their body shape. Its USP is accurate recommendation from day one. Following a two-minute measuring process by your sales staff, shoppers are presented with a ranking of garments guaranteed to make them look great, not simply fit.

The result? Delighted, loyal customers who promote their experience by word of mouth; a thriving bricks-and-mortar store and a customer profile (data set) that boosts sales across all channels. Happy and motivated staff too, hitting their targets using an application that’s been carefully designed for simplicity and ease of use.

To find out how HOLM’s in-store personalisation technology will fit seamlessly into your retail infrastructure and to hear more about their own 5G plans, contact cristina.holm@myholm.com or visit the website for more details: www.myholm.com