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Consumers Want Wireless Retail Stores: Can Connectivity Perform?

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Z-Gens testing new phone in store

A new trend is bringing prospective buyers back to wireless retail stores to demonstrate the quality of experience with new 5G-enabled products. The challenge lies in providing a perfect environment for seeing and touching the future. Learn how testing helps ensure that experience.

Don’t count retail out just yet.

Covid was thought to be the death knell for brick-and-mortar shops. In the first half of 2020 alone, 18 retailers filed for chapter 11 as record store closures became a reality. 10,000 disappeared during that time with tens of thousands more eventually meeting the same fate.

Yet here we are just a few years later and wireless carriers like EE are investing heavily in physical presences.

What changed?

It’s all about the experience. Just look at how the likes of Apple and Tesla have been able to enchant shoppers.

It might feel safe to assume that physical locations largely cater to older crowds with more hardened shopping habits and time on their hands.

But according to early research shared by Omdia at its Predictions For Telecoms and Tech in 2024 event, all segments of wireless shoppers—including Gen-Z—desire in-store engagement. Overall, 44% of consumers said they prefer to buy a handset in person. They want to see, touch, and feel the device. They even want to handle business-like contract changes at these locations.

This couldn’t come at a better time as the 5G core is widely adopted and operators prep performance-sensitive services like cloud and mobile gaming, new AR experiences, and private enterprise offerings. By all standards, operators are ready to show off what advanced networks can do. And consumers are ready to be dazzled.

There’s just one problem.

Wireless connectivity at physical locations can be notoriously challenging. Wireless stores are often located in malls, aging buildings in cities, as well as rural areas.

Demoing devices over the past decade hasn’t required highly performant connectivity. A bar or two would do and there was always Wi-Fi if the signal just couldn’t cut it.

But if wireless operators are to show off all that 5G can do, and successfully upsell on services and devices, they need robust connectivity they can count on.

This means cloud and mobile gaming uplink and downlink latency must be sufficient and reliable. There can’t be insufferable lags in AR demos.

Testing over the air

Operators can ensure the physical experiences they-re investing in to lure customers into stores will perform as planned by deploying Over-The-Air (OTA) active test agents, which continuously test the performance a customer receives when accessing the network for various services at a particular location.

This is the same type of testing that is used in network, enterprise, and home fixed wireless access (FWA) environments. It provides a way to identify what users are really experiencing while supporting rapid fault isolation if performance is unacceptable.

Savvy retailers can also deploy OTA active test agents on commercial handsets to understand how the competition is performing—benchmarking competitive stores to determine what consumers are experiencing when they visit.

Shop ‘til the connectivity drops (hopefully never)

The reinvention of the wireless retail store is all about experiences and providing a perfect environment for seeing and touching the future. Helping consumers understand what modern networks can do for them, what amazing new innovations await and the value they offer is a critical component of 5G business cases.

Active assurance represents the ultimate tool for ensuring physical and digital experiences align.

Learn more: Discover Active Assurance and read our Advanced 5G Fixed Wireless Access and Wi-Fi Testing Solution brief.

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Stephen Douglas
Stephen Douglas

시장 전략 부서장

Spirent is a global leader in automated test and assurance for the ICT industry and Stephen heads Spirents market strategy organization developing Spirents strategy, helping to define market positioning, future growth opportunities, and new innovative solutions. Stephen also leads Spirent’s strategic initiatives for 5G and future networks and represents Spirent on a number of Industry and Government advisory boards. With over 25 years’ experience in telecommunications Stephen has been at the cutting edge of next generation technologies and has worked across the industry with service providers, network equipment manufacturers and start-ups, helping them drive innovation and transformation.