There were plenty of “wow” moments at 2019 MWC event this week. Robots did everything from dance a jig to mimic humans in real time to thread needles. Holograms loomed as a bigger slice of future life than ever. And on Thursday, one attendee even inserted a chip under the base of his index finger so he could better use his automated house. Change is afoot, and the tech world was abuzz at the Barcelona show, which typically draws more than 100,000 attendees.
For brands, much of the relevant chatter revolved around the impact of 5G networks, which have been a big topic at MWC in past years but are now closer to reality. AT&T is expected to roll out 5G in a dozen American cities. And in five years, 5G will account for 50 percent of U.S. connections while consumers forego home internet for the newer technology.
It’s time for marketers to plan ahead for 5G. Here are three big things to take away from this year’s MWC.
1. IoT will drive richer experiences and richer data
Data in the 5G era will be more dynamic for several reasons. The main reason will be that the number of global IoT connections is expected to triple to 25 billion by 2025.
The automotive industry is ripe with opportunities on this front. BMW announced at MWC that it aims to combine data from its voice recognition systems with the latest AI tools, gesture control and gaze recognition information. Here’s how it works: If you’re talking while driving, you can use hand gestures and your gaze to turn down the speaker volume, open air vents, or adjust the sunroof. In other instances, you may want to use your voice instead to do the same things.
In the smartphone era, the industry narrative too often has centered on the idea that consumers will stop talking on the phone or having conversations via voice. BMW has the right idea: How, when, where, and why we use our voice is changing due to tech such as connected vehicles and smart home systems. Whether consumers are talking to a smart speaker, refrigerator or car, the data captured will let brands create better customer experiences.
2. 5G phones will open up new ad formats
For brands, 5G represents new possibilities for mobile marketing and interactive content. TV and movie marketers, CPG players and retailers should suss out which customers are using the first 5G phones. They can get this information by surveying customers who are already on their SMS/MMS list.
Then, marketers can test one of the more interesting opportunities of 5G: the chance to deliver long-form video content via multimedia messaging service (MMS) to anyone with a smartphone. Branded films are extremely effective during the holidays and Super Bowl seasons. Delivering such immersive content — which doesn’t need to be created from scratch for brands with sophisticated video operations — via MMS will be a new kind of brand-to-consumer experience. Are consumers willing to engage with long-form video? Because of 5G, brands can find out. The download time for a 30-minute video will be seconds rather than hours.
3. Foldable phones reimagine screens
The phones listed above — as well as competitors like Motorola Razr 2019 and Royole FlexPai — don’t just come with 5G versions. They also fold. These bendable, tablet-sized supercomputers let you use separate screens to watch two things at once or view a single screen on two sides of a dinner table.
Brands that create content for mobile will have to completely rethink the screen experience. Marketers will have to determine whether they need to prepare content differently for when the screen is folded versus unfolded, and what kind of screen responsive technology they’ll need in order to take advantage of the customer experience. Brands will also need to understand how these screens will impact their mobile site designs and where they place calls-to-action like phone numbers.
These devices, which currently cost around $2,000 or more, probably won’t hit critical mass by the 2019 holiday shopping season. But industry watchers predict they’ll be popular alternatives to regular smartphones and tablets by 2021.
MWC provides a window into the next decade
The 32nd edition of Mobile World Congress provided a glimpse into the future. 5G and IoT offer many new opportunities for connecting to other humans and devices — it’s daunting. In this next phase of mobile, marketers will need to think about the different ways consumers are interacting with the world, with one another, and with content. It will be critical to keep up.