5G data connections are rolling out widely around the world – and while network providers are keen to shout about what that means for internet users on personal devices, there’s also a world of opportunity opened up for retailers who are eager to maximise pop-up opportunities.
To grasp what those opportunities are, it’s worth looking at what 5G is going to offer – and then explore how 5G can potentially give you the edge when you’re delving into temporary retail…
What is 5G?
Virtually everyone realises that 5G mobile internet is going to make things faster – but fewer people really understand why. To wrap your head around 5G, it’s worth taking a very quick digital history lesson. From 1G to 3G (the first to the third generations of data transmission) there was a lot of innovation. Data that had previously not been carried as digital transmissions became digital – 1G turned voice digital, 2G added some small data to that (things like caller ID, and SMS messages), and 3G meant meaningful amounts of data could be carried – making social media, video, and real websites accessible.
Since 3G, nothing new has been added to the data that’s sent, instead, networks have simply tried to up the sheer amount of data that can be carried. 1G, 2G, and 3G technology created the pathways – and 4G turned those paths into useable roads. Now, 5G is going to transform those roads into super-motorways, capable of carrying huge amounts of data will very little delay.
Depending who you listen to, 5G promises to deliver speeds of between 5x and 100x faster than 4G connections. It’s safe to assume that, for now, speeds will be at the lower end of that estimation – with developments over the coming months and years.
So, we know 5G is going to be fast – but how will it impact pop-up retail?
5G routers and 5G WAN
If you’ve had anything to do with the installation of a fixed internet connection, you’ll realise it can be a painful and time-consuming experience. At the time of writing, Openreach cite over 40 working days to install a larger businesses’ internet circuit – but also admit that around 1 in 6 installations don’t hit the intended timescale. In fact, it’s not entirely uncommon for delays to mean lines take upward of 4-5 months to eventually get into place.
Generally speaking, these kind of lead times make getting a good internet connection into a pop-up or temporary site completely unfeasible – unless you go wireless. A handful of companies provide ‘rapid site deployment’ network solutions – i.e. specialist equipment that bonds together the connection from a series of SIM cards and turn it into one stable internet connection – fit to handle your businesses’ internet needs.
The best part? This kind of solution can be with you within a couple of days – and, now 5G internet is on the scene, you’re likely to get connection speeds that outpace those that traditional wired connection providers are taking months to install…
No more relying on anyone else’s infrastructure
When a temporary retail opportunity arises, using 5G routers or an out-of-the-box rapid deployment solution means you’re not hoping for the best with someone else’s connection. Sure, there’s often provision from the management of the space you’re going to be working in – but can you be 100% certain it’s going to be fit for purpose? Will it let you provide guest Wi-Fi? Can you be confident that it’s secure?
There’s a lot to be said for managing your own provisions. Afterall, you answer to someone – and that person’s unlikely to be content with a ‘it wasn’t my fault’ explanation if something goes wrong.
You’ll be able to connect till systems
If you’ve shopped in pop-up locations before, you’ll know it’s not uncommon for them to be operating on a cash-only basis – or trying to make a mobile PDQ machine work by holding it above head-height and hoping for some signal. With a 5G router in place, you’ll be able to operate your standard POS till system, even if it’s fairly data hungry and tied into stock systems elsewhere.
You get to know you’re compliant
‘Data is the new oil’ – it’s a quote that many online retailers are familiar with – and, unfortunately, a significant number of cyber-criminals. Whether it’s email addresses and names or credit card details and addresses, it’s not uncommon to be collecting customer information when you’re in a temporary location – and that’s rich pickings for criminals. Unless you can be absolutely certain that any connection you’re using in your temporary space is secure, you’re playing fast and loose with data that could see you breach GDPR regulations. Bringing your own connection is the only way to be sure.
You can jump at opportunities quickly
One of the biggest benefits that goes hand-in-hand with having 5G connectivity is the speed at which you can act. It’s not unusual for temporary retail spaces to come up at short notice – so if you can say yes without hesitation, knowing you’ve got a connection that’ll let you work to your full potential, you’re a step ahead of the crowd.
You’ll be able to offer decent guest Wi-Fi
Guest Wi-Fi has the potential to bring customers into your store – and keep them there for a prolonged period. Unfortunately, even if you are offered a connection from the company managing the temporary space you’re moving into, it often won’t be robust enough to provide guest access. With 5G, there’s scope for having hundreds (if not thousands) of users accessing your network – so you don’t have to compromise on the shopping experience.
You’ll be able to go where others can’t
Pop-up locations can range from the sublime to the truly absurd. For every empty shopping centre retail unit that’s repurposed for a couple of months, there’s an Instagram worthy rooftop bar or university campus open-air experience that’s driven by quirkiness. While these more off-the-wall kind of opportunities will pass by for most retailers, 5G is going to allow you to go where no retailer has gone before…