Re­tail’s Next Evo­lu­tion

WWD Digital Daily - - In Focus: Technology - Phillip Hart­field is in­dus­try so­lu­tions mar­ket­ing gen­eral man­ager for re­tail at AT&T.

Phillip Hart­field of AT&T ex­plains how 5G will change the way peo­ple shop. “With the ad­vent of 5G, we’re about to ex­pe­ri­ence the next big re­tail evo­lu­tion. We ex­pect 5G tech­nol­ogy to con­nect more de­vices faster, en­able lower la­tency, boost bat­tery life and han­dle more data ...”

In the Nineties, on­line shop­ping rev­o­lu­tion­ized re­tail. Fast-for­ward al­most 30 years. To­day, we can or­der a brand­new wardrobe for home de­liv­ery or a week’s worth of gro­ceries for in-store pickup — all with a tap on a smart­phone. Con­stant con­nec­tiv­ity and a mul­ti­screen world have blended the on­line and off­line shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence, and suc­cess­ful re­tail­ers weave dig­i­tal tools like mo­bile, con­text and video into sales, mar­ket­ing and cus­tomer ser­vice.

With the ad­vent of 5G, we’re about to ex­pe­ri­ence the next big re­tail evo­lu­tion. We ex­pect 5G tech­nol­ogy to con­nect more de­vices faster, en­able lower la­tency, boost bat­tery life and han­dle more data — en­abling things like “magic mir­rors” in the dress­ing room. Imag­ine us­ing a touch­screen mir­ror to swipe through a store’s op­tions. Once you pick the per­fect out­fit in the magic mir­ror, re­tail­ers can sell it off the rack. Or per­haps, a ro­bot will cre­ate the cus­tom gar­ment, and have it de­liv­ered to your house via drone. All of this could be even­tu­ally en­abled by the 5G net­work.

The net­work of the fu­ture will be about the en­tire con­nected ex­pe­ri­ence, not just faster speeds. 5G will ul­ti­mately im­pact how busi­nesses work and how mar­keters within those busi­nesses en­gage cus­tomers —pro­vid­ing valu­able data in­sights to tar­get and per­son­al­ize mes­sages. Here’s more on 5G im­pli­ca­tions, im­ple­men­ta­tions and even po­ten­tial is­sues for the re­tail in­dus­try.


Re­tail­ers need to adapt to chang­ing con­sumer be­hav­iors and pref­er­ences — de­liv­er­ing unique shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ences, cus­tom­ized of­fer­ings and per­son­al­ized at­ten­tion. They need to be hy­per-fo­cused on con­ver­sions dur­ing the cru­cial in-store shop­ping win­dow that spans, on av­er­age, 20 min­utes per visit.

To be most effective, sales as­so­ci­ates will need near real-time ac­cess to a 360-de­gree client view with in­sights into shop­ping his­tory and pref­er­ences. Since con­sumers of­ten re­search a prod­uct on­line prior to in-store pur­chase, near real-time in­sights into that re­search may al­low the as­so­ciate to in­flu­ence in-store de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

Dig­i­tal sig­nage that high­lights rel­e­vant con­tent is an­other way to cus­tom­ize the in-store shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. Tai­lored con­tent tied to de­mo­graphic data, dwell time, pur­chase his­tory, so­cial me­dia en­gage­ment and sea­sonal spe­cials can help in­crease how much the cus­tomer ac­tu­ally buys — de­liv­er­ing in­creased rev­enue to the re­tailer.

This per­son­al­iza­tion re­quires seam­less in­te­gra­tion with in-store tech­nol­ogy mar­ried with ap­pli­ca­tions re­sid­ing at the store edge. A 5G net­work across a re­tail­ers’ dis­tri­bu­tion ware­houses, data cen­ters and cloud ser­vice providers could de­liver this.


Us­ing fu­ture 5G tech­nol­ogy in an ex­ist­ing net­work ar­chi­tec­ture can help power new tech­nolo­gies. Think: per­son­al­ized dig­i­tal sig­nage, aug­mented re­al­ity, vir­tual re­al­ity, video and pat­tern recog­ni­tion of shop­pers and in­ter­ac­tive mo­bile apps. These tech­nolo­gies trans­late to new ap­pli­ca­tions and use cases — ef­fec­tively en­gag­ing shop­pers be­fore they even en­ter a brick-and-mor­tar store and well af­ter they leave.

Let’s start with in­ter­ac­tive win­dow dis­plays as an at­ten­tion-grab­bing dig­i­tal so­lu­tion. Dis­plays can be set up in shop win­dows, which can in­ter­act with cus­tomers be­fore en­ter­ing the store. This tech­nol­ogy helps in­vite the cus­tomer in­side to con­tinue the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence and find that per­fect out­fit they just vir­tu­ally as­sem­bled.

Now in-store, the cus­tomer can en­ter the in­ter­ac­tive fit­ting rooms. Touch­screen tech­nol­ogy will al­low the cus­tomer to re­quest dif­fer­ent sizes or im­me­di­ate as­sis­tance. Re­tail­ers can use this same in­ter­ac­tive “magic mir­ror” tech­nol­ogy to find out what items of cloth­ing are in a par­tic­u­lar dress­ing room to of­fer per­son­al­ized ads in near real-time, such as sug­gest­ing match­ing ac­ces­sories to pair with a dress.

When re­tail­ers start us­ing 5G net­works, cus­tomers and em­ploy­ees will have ca­pa­bil­i­ties for these types of in­ter­ac­tions and data col­lec­tions.

Dur­ing the in­ter­ac­tion, re­tail­ers can col­lect data such as con­tact in­for­ma­tion, sizes and style pref­er­ences, and use it to send tar­geted fol­low-up of­fers. Imag­ine lov­ing a neck­lace and not buy­ing it be­cause of the price, only to re­ceive an e-mail a few days later let­ting you know it’s on sale.

These im­ple­men­ta­tions could have an enor­mous im­pact on cus­tomer en­gage­ment — creat­ing more con­fi­dence and brand loy­alty. Shop­pers ex­pect a straight­for­ward, per­son­al­ized, in­for­ma­tive and con­ve­nient ex­pe­ri­ence. By lever­ag­ing tech­nolo­gies that can do this, such as

AI and VR over 5G, we can help lay the ground­work for a suc­cess­ful fu­ture.


More and more re­tail­ers want the in­her­ent se­cu­rity, sta­bil­ity and pre­dictabil­ity that cel­lu­lar af­fords while ob­tain­ing lo­cal­ized data that his­tor­i­cally was only avail­able via Wi-Fi all at a sin­gle store ag­gre­ga­tion point. This new Edge cre­ates a “best of both worlds” ap­proach to con­nec­tiv­ity, which en­ables an en­tirely new way to drive cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. Com­pound­ing this new de­mand are mul­ti­tenant mall com­plexes where re­tail­ers are com­pet­ing with nearby re­tail­ers for both Wi-Fi and LTE cov­er­age.

Next- gen­er­a­tion mo­bil­ity con­sid­er­a­tions will re­quire har­mony be­tween macro cel­lu­lar, in-store cel­lu­lar and Wi-Fi net­works. Fur­ther­more, har­mony be­tween Wi-Fi and 5G hand­off will be key to a seam­less con­sumer ex­pe­ri­ence. The key is bring­ing 5G and Wi-Fi tech­nolo­gies to­gether in a way that makes the most of each plat­form’s ad­van­tages, drives the re­tailer’s dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tives and de­liv­ers a su­pe­rior in-store con­sumer ex­pe­ri­ence.

To main­tain rel­e­vancy and a com­pet­i­tive edge, re­tail­ers will need to cater to the needs of the tech-savvy, mo­bile-fo­cused gen­er­a­tion of mod­ern con­sumers. And the fu­ture of 5G will de­liver.

Mo­bile shop­ping.

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