Complex Made Simple

Transforming the UX in retail with 5G from bricks to clicks

Here’s a quick fact.

According to Dolly Lakhani, Sr. Marketing Specialist, SMB & Networking Division at TP-Link MEA FZE, There are over 145 million internet users in the Arab World, with internet penetration of more than 58%.

“Consumers in this region, and globally, are rapidly adopting connected technology and are ready for the transformational experiences that 5G will bring, Lakhani told AMEinfo.

She’s right.

Technology analysts estimate that 5G connectivity will boost the GCC economy by $269 billion within 10 years.

By 2024, thanks to 5G, 8 billion people will be online, each with megabit to gigabit connection speeds. That equates to 4.2 billion new digital consumers. e-retail revenues are projected to reach $4.88 trillion globally by 2021, according to Statista, while MENA’s e-commerce market is at $28.5bn by 2020.

In a 5G world, every single thing will be connected hundreds of times faster, from your kitchen to your car, and even your clothes.

But will 5G transform the user experience (UX) in retail?


Virtually Possible

Muetassem Raslan, Regional Sales Director for Ruckus Networks in the Middle East and Africa, told AMEinfo that using technology like live inventory tracking, MPOS (mobile point of sale) and digital signage, “allows retailers to integrate their in-store and online business models to create one seamless shopping experience.”

By using IoT-embedded sensors, businesses can have a real-time view and quick response to stock and restocking needs, eliminating out-of-stock worries that customers have when shopping.

Virtual Reality (VR) will allow retailers to completely personalize the UX as 5G increases the amount of bandwidth transmitted over wireless, allowing VR or Augmented Reality (AR) apps to run with little to no latency, with speeds ranging from 40 milliseconds to 300 milliseconds.

The global VR/AR market is a major player in 5G and is forecast to be worth $80 billion by 2025, according to reports.

“Retailers are reinventing customer experiences: apps can use IoT to personalize offers when someone walks by a store, AI can provide clothing options based on shopping histories, customers can use social media to share purchases, and AR/VR can virtually try on outfits,” Dr Hichem Maya, Head of Industries, SAP MENA, told AMEinfo.

Case in point: Dressing rooms

In the dressing room of the future, interactive “magic mirrors” can recognize the products someone tries on through an RFID (Radio-frequency identification tracks objects) tag. This can provide valuable information about the customer and allows the display of personalized ads in real time, such as a necklace or pair of shoes that perfectly match a dress.

“In the not-too-distant future, mirrors could be replaced with high-resolution monitors with Internet of Things (IoT) cameras that allow you to ‘virtually’ try on dozens or hundreds of combinations of clothing,” offered Mo Katibeh, CMO, AT&T Business in the US.

“You could ‘swipe right’ to try on another shirt or even automatically get recommendations on accessories.”

And Rooms at home…

Augmented Reality will change the home shopping experience. Clothes from top brands could appear in your living room. Shoes and other accessories that you want to try on will be projected onto various parts of your body, making it easier for you to make a shopping decision, according to America retail.

“When 5G enables latency to drop below 1 millisecond, VR and AR will be processing images faster than the human brain — the experience will be as close to real as possible,” said Diginomica, a business media for the digital enterprise.

Mobile disruption of retail 

5G-powered phones such as Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and Huawei Mate X are bendable, phone- or tablet-sized devices that let users employ separate screens to watch two things at once.

For apparel, for instance, imagine comparing one outfit on one side of the screen to another or scrolling through accessory options on the other side of the device.

“Wi-Fi has gone from being a “nice to have” to an expectation. The growth of social media, coupled with increased variety and use of personal devices, means that everyone expects to stay connected wherever they go, including in their favourite stores,” said Raslan.


Despite the cost ($2,000 or more), Yahoo finance predicted these phones will start taking serious market share from regular smartphones and tablets by 2021.  

According to Abacus, an industry media, the majority of the 5G mobile subscriptions in the Middle East are expected to come from advanced ICT markets like Saudi Arabia and the UAE with mobile broadband subscriptions to double (860 million to 1,630 million from 2018 to 2024).

Advertising in motion

The 5G revolution will require more cell towers near shopping districts and malls and this means location data will become more accurate. Mobile ads from retailers’ apps will be better timed compared to past efforts.

5G-enabled phones can receive a 30-minute video via MMS which will take seconds to download. With 5G you can download a 3D movie in 30 seconds, compared with about six minutes on 4G.

Which mobiles/laptops will offer 5G?

Statista said Samsung ‘s first 5G smartphone will appear in H1 2019. Huawei recently revealed plans to launch a 5G smartphone in the second half of 2019, while Intel has announced a partnership with Microsoft, Lenovo, HP and Dell to create 5G-enabled laptops.

 In December 2018, Bloomberg said Apple will wait until at least 2021 before releasing a 5G iPhone.

Ericsson published that 5G technology won’t really take off until 2021/2022 anyway and put global 5G smartphone subscriptions at 54 million by the end of 2020. By 2022, the worldwide 5G population is expected to have risen to 551 million, 10x more.

5G estimated to reach 30 million subscriptions in MEA by 2024, representing 2% of total mobile subscriptions, according to an Ericsson Mobility Report.

What users want 

Customers want to purchase products from anywhere, at any time, and from any device, hopefully at a discount. Retailers are trying to adapt by equipping stores with intelligent data that cater to these needs.

 Accenture shows that 91% of customers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize and remember them and provide relevant offers.

Some companies are launching an express online one-hour delivery service or providing in-store customers with the ability to scan and pack products as they shop the aisles for seamless in-store shopping.

“Consumers across MENA countries are always excited and receptive towards embracing innovation. People here are inquisitive and excited and less resistant to change than other regions,” Shawn Jin, International Marketing Specialist at Neffos, global provider of networking products, told AMEinfo.

“While AR, VR, AI and IoT, all play a crucial role in driving the prosperity of 5G, I believe that IoT and AI as a combination will be frontrunners in building momentum, moving forward.”

Lakhani added: “Consumers here are interested in collecting experiences rather than “anything else in the value chain.”

“We feel that the consumers in this region aren’t just ready for these transformational experiences, they are the ones who have driven and demanded the solutions that these technologies have to offer,” Lakhani said.