Retail in the Post-Digital Era: Helping Retailers Blend Physical and Virtual Worlds
Retailers that once tried to compete with e-commerce giants have long since shifted to become giants in their own right. Today, retail is shifting again, weaving digital into every aspect of operations, largely driven by brands need to anticipate individual customers’ evolving desires. Additionally, over a decade of transformation has sparked a shift in consumer habits and shopping behavior. Consumers once driven by selection and price are now motivated by convenience and experience.
This “post-digital” era will be driven by 5G technology, which will create a new paradigm. For retailers, the goal of the post-digital world is to deliver a seamless, end-to-end shopping experiences. In doing so, they need to rethink the relationship between physical and digital. 5G, the latest generation of wireless technology, will offer ultrafast speeds, massive bandwidth and ultralow latency.
The opportunities that 5G will bring aren’t appearing out of thin air. Blending physical and virtual retail started over a decade ago as brands leveraged 4G and the boom of web 2.0 to offer in-store pick up on web orders, displaying inventory of local stores during an online search, and special offers pushed to customers’ phones through geolocation. These all seem like quaint ideas now, but let’s not forget each was groundbreaking for its time. In many ways, 5G will usher in the same type of transformation, except the catalyst will be less about simplifying and streamlining the online and physical shopping experience, and more transforming it into something that's greater than the sum of its parts.
5G’s low latency, increased bandwidth and high speed will improve and democratize cutting-edge technologies, in particular augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality.
A Post-Digital World Puts Information Closer Than Our Fingertips
At Verizon’s 5G Lab in New York City, we recently showed off two 5G retail use cases that demonstrate 5G’s potential to transform and personalize your customer experience. Verizon’s 5G Dev Lab showed how one day you may be able to hold your phone up to grocery store shelves to enable AR-powered object recognition show you which products have nuts or gluten, as well as their ratings, all in one single screenshot.
Additionally, Evercoast showed how 5G is about to empower a shift from 2D to 3D communication thanks to its massive bandwidth and super fast speeds. Imagine a virtual fitting room where you can try on an outfit, send your friends your 3D hologram, and solicit feedback, in near real time.
Millennials are driven by experiences, which is where the focus of stores will be. Seventy-two percent of millennials say they would like to increase their spending on experiences rather than physical items, according to an Eventbrite study.
Given this, the post-digital era will see a return to focus on the customer experience by way of technology. Companies that differentiate through personalization, unique experiences, or a strong brand identity and ethos will be able to resonate when competing in a market where the best price and selection are expected.
Michele Dupré is the group vice president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, a division of Verizon Communications that provides services and products for Verizon's business and government clients globally.
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