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The current retail change wave uses wireless today and will use next generation 5G wireless tomorrow, to completely reinvent itself. The way retailers do business, interact with customers, workers, suppliers, locations and more are all going through a fundamental transformation. Early adopters are using wireless today. However, sooner or later every retailer will have to move into this space or they will suffer with lost market share.
As a wireless analyst over the last 30 years, I have watched the wireless industry fundamentally change and continue to grow, year after year. The next growth wave is centered around 5G technology. In the next year or two or three we will see more 5G-enabled technology roll into the marketplace.
Retail early adopters and fast followers in the coming 5G wireless revolution
This march will change the way industries operate. Retail is one of those industries. Retail will face a fundamental shift in the way it operates.
Early adopters or leaders are the companies who jump in early. They gain a competitive advantage for customers who love new technology. They will write the rules for the way the industry will operate going forward.
This is a great opportunity for these companies to write the map for growth going forward. While this is a great opportunity, it also sometimes comes at a cost. The leaders take the arrows. What that means is sometimes they take the right route up front. Other times they don't and that can be costly.
So, while leadership has its benefits, it also is a bumpy road.
Early adopters or leaders have great opportunity, and also take the arrow.
Next, comes the fast followers. These are companies who are not first to market with new technology, but once the path it determined, they jump in and compete. While they don't write the new map, once it is written by the early adopters, this second wave of companies enter and compete and create competition.
This is what I mean when I say early adopters have a unique opportunity. They pave the new roads, but also take the arrows. The followers take a safer course, but don't have the power to shape the industry. They just compete in the industry the early adopters create.
To give you an example, consider AT&T and AT&T Mobility, vs. Verizon and Verizon Wireless.
AT&T is the early adopter. They are the first mover. They create the new marketplace. This gives them a unique advantage. They also take the arrows as leaders always do.
Verizon on the other hand, waits. They see what works for AT&T and what doesn't. When things stabilize, they jump in and start competing. They don't write the rules for this new space, but they don't take as many arrows either.
While both AT&T and Verizon are successful competitors in wireless and telecom, they both take a different path to reach this goal.
This same rule applies to every retail competitor in the market today. There are early adopters and followers. The early adopters are the leaders in the retail space. That means companies like Apple, AT&T Mobility, Kohls and many others. There are also plenty of followers all across the industry.
Retail also has a third category beyond early adopters and followers. They are the companies who don't participate. They are companies who want to keep things the way they were. These are companies that don't change. Don't improve the way they interact with customers.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of these like K-Mart, Sears, J.C. Penny and more. These are companies who either don't or can't change who they are in the marketplace. This is a shame, because this means they can't continue to grow going forward.
Take this a step further and we see there are also plenty of retailers who have failed. Companies like Toys R Us, Circuit City, Radio Shack and so many others.
Leadership in a changing retail industry is lead first by early adopters, then fast-followers. These are the only two categories who will continue to grow and survive going forward.
The 5G wireless revolution will be even bigger than the last. It will transform not only the wireless industry, but countless other industries as well. Industries which will fundamentally shift the way they do business.
This is a shift every company in every industry must make, either as an early adopter or a fast follower. With that said, let me as you a question. Which category does your company fall into?