5G is a big priority for telecommunications providers in the UK, with the technology promising to transform mobile communication across the world. The rollout is gathering pace, with operator EE (BT) recently announcing that a further 35 towns and cities across the UK have started to go live on their new 5G ultrafast mobile broadband network. As the rollout continues, the buzz heightens in tandem – but how will this new technology change the customer experience (CX)?
5G should act as a catalyst for a better CX. However, to make the most of the technology, businesses will have to start planning now. As Deloitte argues, “digital transformation initiatives that are in flight or being planned must consider where and how 5G and edge computing capabilities can offer benefits and address financial and operational challenges. In parallel, retailers should consider future possibilities for CX and store operations that can be enabled by this next-gen digital infrastructure.”
But what exactly will businesses need to consider and how will the technology shift customer expectations?
Consumers – more demanding than ever before
According to the GSMA, “5G provides the ability to connect people and things better, faster and more efficiently.” The technology enables data to be transferred quicker than ever before and with less latency. As a result, consumers will be more demanding when it comes to a 5G-powered CX. They will expect brand interactions to be conducted in real-time, to be personalized, and to be on the platform of their choice. Seamless and frictionless mobile interactions and transactions will become the new standard.
The importance of delivering great CX and satisfying these demands has been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Infobip research of 2,000 British people found that over a third (33 percent) have higher expectations for customer service since the first lockdown and a third (32 percent) said they will not spend with a business that provides poor service again. Getting CX right isn’t just a question of one lost sale, it could mean a customer decides never to spend with you again.
While consumers are quick to pick up new trends and technology, it seems service providers are lagging behind. According to Ericsson’s recent Five Ways to a Better 5G report, 40 percent of current 5G users are satisfied with network speeds offered, but only 29 percent are satisfied with the innovative apps and services included as part of a 5G plan. The report claims that “service providers need to think beyond existing bundled 4G services, such as music and video streaming, and move towards services that could differentiate a 5G experience and promote a sense of novelty and exclusivity.”
Service providers also need to consider the specific jobs or activities consumers want to achieve with 5G. The same report from Ericsson identified five areas where consumers hope 5G will help them: To be productive and efficient; To be creative; To enable new ways of connecting and socializing; The need for novelty (thrill, surprise, discovery), and Rewards. Businesses need to use 5G as an anchor point for them to develop new – or enhance existing – experiences for their end customer.
Time to make use of rich channels
While 5G will increase the speed of interaction, its technology will also create the conditions for a wide and growing set of revolutionary new service propositions and channels.
We know that since the onset of the pandemic, people are embracing digital more than ever. In fact, Infobip research found that 35 percent of people are happier to engage with brands on more digital channels since March 2020. This has led to the rise of newer, conversational channels like WhatsApp and Viber, becoming a necessity for brand interaction and customer support. With increased capacity, 5G will ensure the reach of these channels continues to grow.
Many experts have also predicted that 5G will lead to a boom in video and augmented reality (AR) technology, as part of the more immersive and instant CX consumers’ demand.
Take Rich Communication Services (RCS), for example; the next generation of SMS which gives brands the opportunity to make use of business feature-rich mobile messaging using chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI).
Through RCS, businesses can embed logos, images, videos, and carousels directly into messages sent to a mobile device. They can also analyze the messages they send out and understand in more detail how consumers have engaged and interacted with each. This will enable brands to fine-tune their activities and deliver timelier, personalized messages, increasing the chance of sales conversions.
RCS has been touted as the next big thing for a while now, but with data-based messaging at its core, 5G’s flexibility, bandwidth and low latency will turbocharge its use.
Improving the in-store experience
While 5G should help make digital interactions more immersive, it could help make the in-store experience more immersive too. With 5G, companies can continue to find ways to meet their customers where they are and want to be, but through applications that previously weren’t feasible with wireless broadband – for example a retailer could now develop a virtual dressing room via cellular broadband. Again, Ericsson’s latest 5G report imagines what the browsing and shopping experience could look like in 2025: “You then take a walk to grab lunch and your 5G-powered AR glasses provide real-time contextual AR advertising, reviews and ratings, which are virtually anchored to specific locations. The AR navigation assistance leads you to nearby restaurants, offering discounts based on open AR cloud technology.”
In essence, the reliable connectivity offered by 5G will enable brands to captivate shoppers when they are at their most engaged and most likely to make a purchase. A carefully crafted, personalized message sent to the shopper as they enter a store could be the difference between a completed purchase and an empty basket.
Without a doubt, 5G’s speed, capacity and coverage will enable businesses to improve CX. But they must not rest on their laurels. Now is the time to prepare for how the technology can and should be used to deliver a faster, smoother and more personalized CX.
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Mijo Soldin, director operator strategy and partnerships, Infobip