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Will 5G change how we purchase physical products in the future?

July 29, 2020 - Jonathan Plant

Jonathan Plant, Marketing Director, talks about how 5G can deliver a better customer experience when shopping online.

 As covid-19 brought most of the globe into lockdown, online shopping skyrocketed. According to some recent research, approximately 1.8 billion people purchase products online worldwide (Statista, 2018). This number could only grow exponentially over the last few months and there is a potential that people could get used to the convenience of this new norm. However, what was apparent was how organisations struggled to cope with the sheer volume of orders. Images appeared through the media of certain distribution warehouses trying to deal with mountains of products waiting to be dispatched their eager customers. Companies within manufacturing also struggled in this period as their supply chain was severely disrupted because of change in demand as well as disruption to work processes.

5G technology brings new opportunities for companies that sell products online, companies that deal with the warehousing and logistics to companies that deliver to your door. So let’s go through the different steps from purchasing the product online to the product delivered to your door and how 5G can help in the process.

Purchase of goods

As an example of leveraging 5G to provide a better purchasing experience could be in the area of DIY. So you want to change the colour of the walls of your living room. Instead of driving to your nearest DIY store, queuing for ages getting about 10 tester pots of paint, coming back home, spending a hour or so testing paints on your wall, just to decide that you don’t like any of them. With 5G you put on your VR/AR headset and select from an unlimited selection of colours to find the one that suits you. You can then visualise in real-time what the room will look like. Once you are happy you make the purchase there and then. 5G brings the low latency to the headset so that you can full experience what the room is like. Operators could partner with DIY providers to enable this functionality quite easily and open new revenue streams (taking a % of retail price of the paint).

Supply chain

Then you what 5G brings to a supply chain operation is ubiquitous coverage of the entire warehouse meaning each product is fully tracked by sensors and potential robots to understand real-time view of product availability. Then in real-time provide information to the purchaser as to when exactly the product will be delivered, but down to the hour because of what 5G brings to advances in transportation. Imagine having the visibility in real-time as to where your product is. Companies that rely on goods as part of their manufacturing process for the likes of “Just in Time”. Having a high level of accuracy of when the goods will be delivered could have a huge impact on their business in terms of efficiency and cost savings. Especially items that have a very short shelf life or hazardous materials that need careful management.

Transportation

Transportation of goods can be complex and costly. 5G brings opportunities to revolutionise how products can be delivered. There are more and companies looking to invest in drone delivery for starters, this takes human interaction, traffic or delays out of the equation. 5G enables a fully automated and fast delivery service as well as the ability to track real-time progress of the delivery. The next advancement in delivery would be for cities to adopt a 5G technology to their existing network architecture to enhance the movement of people and goods. What this means is more effective route planning in the event of accidents, weather etc. but ultimately the transport company having visibility city wide of all routes in real-time. Automation of transport is still going to be a bit away and a challenging talking point. But it is coming and with the help of 5G it will come sooner than we think and the business case will start to justify itself.

Automation of any description is always going to drive down costs and efficiencies no matter what you are doing. As companies like Uber Eats and Amazon Prime in certain locations being able to offer ultra-fast delivery of products through an app, people lose patience when waiting for their goods. So companies that sell/distribute a lot of goods globally, investment in 5G services could be the solution to efficiency and happier end customers.

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