Redefining Retail: Does 5G Signal the Next Big Retail Evolution?

By Phil Pomford | 01 Nov 2019

5G is poised to power the next generation of internet connectivity and e-commerce. Faster and more reliable than anything that’s come before, 5G networks will enable people to communicate, consume entertainment and shop at unprecedented speeds.

The new network could prove pivotal for Australia’s economy, especially following the challenging rollout of the NB (National Broadband Network), which was designed to power connectivity.

In a time where just about everything is connected to the internet in some way, 5G will support the arrival of the IoT (Internet of Things), allowing networks to keep up with the traffic demand for the foreseeable future. Some of Australia’s largest corporations and financial institutions are already looking to harness 5G – for example, Commonwealth Bank is trialling 5G for edge computing.

With such huge potential, businesses in the e-commerce space, and indeed any retailer today, should be paying close attention to the arrival of 5G. The high-speed connectivity of 5G will transform the way people shop, signalling the arrival of the next big retail evolution and presenting new challenges and opportunities for brands.

5G is set to power significant growth in M-commerce, with some researchers estimating that it will produce an additional US$12 billion in mobile commerce revenue for retailers in just three years. That growth will be in part due to the simple economics of speed – faster, cheaper internet on your mobile phone means more opportunities to shop. This is especially true for emerging digital customers in developing countries.

The new networks will also enable a new level of access and ubiquity for groundbreaking retail technologies that leverage AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual Reality) and the IoT. Imagine getting the best parts of the brick-and-mortar shopping experience without ever setting foot in a store. You’re not simply scrolling through a website: you’re actually looking at the shelves of a fashion retailer or supermarket via AR through your mobile phone, as well as exploring new offerings, hunting for discounts and deals, and even using a virtual fitting room to try on outfits; all from the comfort of your couch.

This futuristic consumer experience could be closer than we think, thanks to 5G and its unprecedented capability to handle huge amounts of data at high speeds. 5G will unlock a new wave of consumer preferences – and if e-commerce businesses want to win amongst Asia Pacific’s fierce digital competition, they must harness the power of 5G. Then, they can truly transform the customer experience, through innovative technologies like AR and VR.

The possibilities of 5G are not limited to the digital retail space. 5G is also set to rapidly accelerate omnichannel commerce; bringing the digital and physical worlds together in a completely new way. Brick-and-mortar stores can connect to shoppers via their mobile devices – you might walk into a shop and receive a personalised SMS communication with a special deal just for you, based on your browsing history. Or, through facial recognition tools, retailers could soon be able to track the in-store products you spend the longest time looking at, then send you a digital offer to encourage online purchase after you leave the shop.

As retailers consider how to innovate in the era of 5G, it will be paramount to provide the right payment experience; one that feels fast and frictionless, to match the overall 5G shopping journey. For online merchants, this means investigating the possibilities of innovative new payment systems – think facial recognition authentication, social payments and invisible payments.

It also means simply taking the first step to understanding consumers’ preferred payment methods in any given market and catering to these. In Australia, eWallets are already the second most preferred way for consumers to pay for goods online after credit cards. This shows just how rapidly and significantly payment methods are shifting thanks to advances in technology. With 5G just around the corner, the question is, how will this impact the next wave of payment trends?

Phil Pomford is the General Manager, Global Enterprise e-commerce, Merchant Solutions at FIS.

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