5G is here! Today, the BBC launched its first broadcast via 5G, which failed because they ran out of data.
If you’re not sure you really understand 5G, or what 5G means for your store, this is the place to come. Specifically, “5G” is a mobile internet standard which is being rolled out now – it means that your data is being sent across bigger fatter pipes when you use the mobile internet. That means that the speed at which data will travel goes up – to something called GIGABIT speeds, which sounds pretty fast to me.
In order to access 5G network speeds you need a 5G-enabled device; so you’re probably likely to continue using 4G networks for the rest of the year. But what will 5G mean for merchants as it’s rolled out across the UK?
TLDR: You don’t have to take any action to prepare for 5G. But if you’re frustrated by slow mobile internet speeds on your tablet or mobile, consider getting a device which supports 5G.
1. More Complex Media
Faster speeds for media downloading on mobile probably means that the kind of media people interact with will become more complex.
Companies like rooomy are great examples of this. The way that rooomy works is that you download the app and project different pieces of furniture into your real living room when you’re browsing them online. This helps you decide what furniture you want! This is pretty cool, and it’s called AR – or “Augmented Reality” – which is just a way of saying media which interacts with the real world in some way. Crucially, media which is this interactive needs loads and loads of data to work, which we’ll have with 5G.
Some people reckon that better discovery via AR or its cousin, VR (which is media you have to put on a headset for) will mean a greater proportion of people buy online. Here’s a Silicon Valley VC making that exact point. The idea goes that one reason people choose to buy something in shops rather than online is that the discovery has more “depth” – you can see an item, hold it, vouch for its quality. With AR like rooomy, where you can project something via your smartphone, you might be able to satisfy yourself that it’s a good product to a greater extent than is currently possible online, so a greater share of the retail market will go there.
But we know that many of our customers pride themselves on the experience of their stores. Street markets are a great example of this – even if a low-tech one. Another Silicon Valley consultant argues that this is how “retail theatre” will become a greater proportion of the overall in-store pie. We think that store owners will find innovative ways to use this media in-store; and use online and in-store experiences together to make the best customer journey.
2. More Reliable Connection
Another thing faster phone network speeds which come from 5G means is that the phones will be more reliable. We could see phones or SIM tablets doing a greater proportion of the job of EPOS. We’ll be less reliant on WiFi because the speeds are a bit better via 5G.
“Cloud-based” EPOS systems mean that you don’t have to look after a server or think about data security, and they typically come hand-in-hand with better and faster features. You can also log-in from whenever. But if you go offline, you have to stop! One of the main complaints of people with cloud-based EPOS systems is that they need to be online to run – and store owners worry about patchy WiFi connection.
Many EPOS systems nowadays are “hybrid cloud” – meaning they can be offline for periods of time and still work. Remember, you need to ensure that both your EPOS and your payments can continue running offline if you want everything to continue to work.
Mobile internet will often work as your back-up option for a WiFi outage, and 5G will be that little bit faster and less glitchy. We think it’s always worth getting a device with a SIM so that you have this backup, even if you expect access to regular WiFi – now, that backup is a little bit better and stronger.
3. The Connection of Everything
5G will permit higher numbers of connected devices on the network, which in turn will enable something called the “IoT”. That stands for “internet of things”, and basically refers to putting computers and sensors in EVERYTHING.
And I mean EVERYTHING. From your car, to lamp posts, to your kitchen cupboard, which could let you know what’s inside of it via your phone before you come home from work, so you can pick up the right thing. A great example of this working today is smart bins which let bin lorries know when they’re full – and some bin lorries go on a custom route to collect waste from public bins.
In stores, this might mean that we’ll be collecting a lot more information on what’s affecting our sales! Things that a good EPOS system does well – such as telling you the temperature in your store isn’t optimum, or that more people are buying when certain kinds of music are playing – etcetera. The idea of putting sensors everywhere and in everything is that they can catch anything affecting your sales. We’re excited to see how the IoT pans out – and the way that stores take advantage of these products.
If you’re a store owner and you’re thinking about what 5G means for you, it probably isn’t very much. The things we’ve talked about here are pretty exciting – but will trickle down to you, probably via the technology companies who make your EPOS software.
If you’re interested in doing some exciting stuff with technology in your shop, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat more about it.