A trip to the store will be more informative and entertaining in a 5G world, giving brick-and-mortar retailers a needed boost over online sellers. 

Trying on clothing, for instance, will become virtual, powered by high-definition screens that will replace traditional dressing rooms, while makeup counters with smart mirrors will let customers test lipsticks and eye shadows without ever touching a physical product.

"The realism coming through devices or virtual dressing rooms with 5G will be staggering," says Jon Nordmark, co-founder and CEO of Iterate.ai, an innovation R&D company in San Jose, California. By 2020, spending on AR and VR for retail could reach $59 billion, says research firm CB Insights. Major retail outlets are likely to have proprietary use of such apps initially, owing to high costs.

For furniture sellers, a smartphone app will instantly show customers realistic 3-D renderings of a sofa in every style and fabric--as it would look in their homes. "Each time you'd swipe, you'd get the next look, whereas right now, on 4G, you'd swipe and be waiting and waiting, and it would show you a not-great-quality version," says Matt Wisdom, CEO of New Orleans-based Turbo­Squid, a marketplace for professional digital 3-D models. "The experience will be dramatically different."

In grocery stores, 5G will allow shoppers to point their smartphones at labels to instantly receive information. Retailers will benefit too, by gaining access to shoppers' profiles--even offering them deals. "You can do it on the fly," says Chetan Sharma, a wireless industry consultant. "Analytics and real-time feedback will be another area that retailers will look into." 

How soon? That's up to the retailers. But bear in mind that some 5,000 stores disappeared in 2019, so those that wait too long risk joining that list.