5G’s Finally Here—5 Ways It Will Change Digital Marketing in 2020 and Beyond

5G’s Finally Here—5 Ways It Will Change Digital Marketing in 2020 and Beyond

5G’s Finally Here—5 Ways It Will Change Digital Marketing in 2020 and Beyond

Buzz around 5G has been growing louder, but by now, the overly optimistic, under-delivered projections of previous years might have left you jadedly wondering, “Why shouldn’t I ignore 5G for a little while longer—and spend the resources on more pressing, traditional marketing initiatives?” Or perhaps the frequent news of major networks making progress in the race to spread 5G service across U.S. cities has left you with the mistaken impression that it’s already arrived—and you wonder why there’s so much hype.

But last year, 5G adoption began spreading large-scale in the United States. Really. We mean it this time. In December, T-mobile U.S. announced that it is offering 5G service to more than 200 million people in America, with plans to cover all in the near future. It joins Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, all of whom now offer partial coverage in the United States. It won’t be long until most of the country has some access to 5G.

Of course, full-scale, universal nationwide deployment and adoption of 5G isn’t expected until the early 2020s.

But it’s now clear that 5G will make applications such as high-end video—currently unthinkable because of bandwidth bottlenecks—commonplace. Frequently overlooked is the ability of high-speed computing and analytics to make truly real-time, data-driven marketing a reality.

So as this new age of internet connectivity dawns, it’s important for marketers to ask, “How will 5G impact our marketing?” Right now’s a great time to learn how 5G is expected to impact the future of marketing and how you can  make the most of it.

5G Means More than Faster Smartphones

To understand exactly how much of a difference 5G will make, let’s take a brief look at the history of wireless connectivity. (The “G” in 5G stands for “generation,” which is a naming convention started with the launch of 3G in 1998.) Every time we moved to a new generation of telecom capabilities, the jump has been transformative, both for marketers and for popular culture in general. For reference: mobile phones were introduced in the early 1980s (1G); texting was introduced in the early 1990s (2G). Then, 3G introduced mobile internet browsing. When 4G launched in 2008, it became possible to efficiently run apps like Uber, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook

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The goal with 5G technology is to reduce latency to four milliseconds—down from 4G’s 30 to 60 milliseconds. Just to give you some perspective on how fast that is: the reaction time between the human eye and the brain’s response is around 10 milliseconds. At these speeds, 5G will effectively enable real-time communication between people and connected devices.

Keep in mind, 5G isn’t just for mobile devices like smartphones. A range of technology will be integrated by 5G, like the Internet of Things (IoT), wearables, retail experience spaces, smart cities infrastructure, drones, wireless factories, and more. For the next ten years, 5G will connect all of these disconnected technologies, giving them a mode for communicating.

5 Ways 5G Will Revolutionize Digital Marketing

Knowing all this, the speculation and hype about 5G’s potential impact on industries everywhere makes sense. To prepare for this revolution, what marketers really need to know is how 5G will affect them.

1. Mobile ecommerce will accelerate.

Mobile ecommerce sales in the United States accounted for 39.6% of total retail ecommerce sales in 2018—and that number is expected to climb. Despite this record growth, U.S. consumers are still experiencing significant issues while shopping online. Their biggest frustration stems from latency—in a recent survey 41.9% cited low performing websites or apps as their largest disappointment. Other major issues included: too many steps in the buying process (35%) and checkout errors (34%).

As networks speed up with 5G, zero latency will effectively eliminate the number one problem for mobile shopping. That gives companies—and marketers—a brief window to prepare for 5G by streamlining shopping apps and improving the customer experience so they can cash in on the upcoming growth.

Wish recently came up with a highly effective way to improve its customer experience, and used it to build an $8B shopping app, making it one of the most popular shopping apps in the world. The company’s strategy was to ingest 17 billion consumer behavior events per day from multiple sources like Facebook, the company’s mobile app, and its website. The resulting highly personalized shopping recommendation engine delivers 95% relevance, and the company’s conversion growth is 2x year-over-year. When 5G is ubiquitous, such huge datasets and high-speed, real-time customer marketing interactions will become the norm, not the exceptional case study.

2. Targeted customer personalization and CX will get easier—and more accurate.

As connectivity speeds increase, so too will the number of wireless users and devices across the globe. This means increasing data collection as mobile connectivity reaches deeper into rural and remote areas—and further into peoples’ homes with the spread of IoT. Indeed, 75 billion IoT devices are expected to be connected by 2025. So it’s no wonder that 51% of the world’s top marketers expect IoT to revolutionize the industry. As a result, not only will 5G connect more people and devices, it will also collect higher quality, hyperlocal, granular data. All of which will give marketers more opportunities for better personalization, as well as the ability to understand customers’ needs in real-time.

With 5G data transfer speeds, the possibilities for hyper-personalized experiences that merge detailed customer data with real-time analytics are practically endless. For example, in the retail space Adroit Worldwide Media (AWM) Smart Shelf is working on a system that combines a mobile app with facial recognition software to track a shopper’s gender, ethnicity, and emotional state. Shoppers can upload recipes to the app to get aisle locations for every ingredient. The system can also identify what’s in their carts and make predictions about what else they might need. Nearby kiosks will display ads or coupons for relevant products, like spaghetti sauce for pasta.

3. Segmented video advertising will proliferate.

This year, mobile video advertising in the United States is on pace to nearly double. And that’s for 4G connections, which rarely achieve download speeds of 1GB per second. When 5G mobile internet speeds increase, buffering and page load times will dramatically decrease—and this will lead to an even bigger spike in mobile video consumption. As higher definition video becomes easier to watch on 5G, consumers will likely be more open to video ads as long as they’re relevant.

To harness this opportunity, marketers should plan to ramp up the creation of videos for very specific audience segments and enhance customer experiences. A great example is from global beverage leader Kirin, which boasts more than 100 different beverage brands. Using mobile app data, Kirin ran a highly targeted and successful campaign to get customers to stop in at nearby pubs.

4. Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) will enhance customer experiences.

Not only will 5G improve the transfer speeds and collection of greater volumes of data, it will also lower latency in data response. Together, low latency and high system capacity will improve consistency, helping to bring seamless, immersive experiences into mainstream reality that offer a plethora of marketing opportunities.

Marketers will be able to leverage 5G to launch new, more exciting messaging using interactive, high-quality imagery overlays on any surface. Augmented reality (AR) won’t be limited to 2D graphical overlays within AR-glasses. Instead, it’ll appear on surfaces like retail walls, car dashboards, and next-generation mobile devices that double as projectors. Expectations are that even 3D modeled imagery, like holograms, could be used as overlays on store products and on display case countertops.

In fact, some retailers are already experimenting with AR using mobile apps to help customers visualize products to boost confidence and complete the sale. For example, a recent virtual-reality-augmented Diesel fragrance campaign created for L’Oréal’s Diesel brand and titled “The Edge,” provided a VR experience for Diesel’s aptly named “Only the Brave [fragrance] for Men.” With alarming precision, it simulated the experience of crawling out on a high-rise ledge to reach through an open window and seize a bottle of the fragrance. And beauty company Shiseido uses Big Data to cultivate experiences that keep customers loyal, such as an Internet of Things (IoT) skin-care system that adjusts in real-time to customers’ current skin conditions.

5. Advertising will be more interactive.

When ad-load times across every device are near-instant, marketers will be able to employ highly creative, interactive ads to enhance their campaigns and engage consumers. Interactive ads will no longer impact website performance, ensuring websites are easier to navigate. In turn, this could boost advertising click-throughs, slow the growth of ad blockers—now used by 47% of all consumers—and decrease bounce rates.

But 5G’s impact on interactive ads will be on more than just mobile and desktop screens. With data about who’s in the vicinity, movie and TV product placements and ads could also change in real-time on different devices, depending on who’s watching and how they’re feeling.

How can you prepare for 5G? Better Martech, Better Customer Data

Good planning should also include updating your digital marketing technology stack with technologies that help you take advantage of the 5G data inundation. In a 5G world, marketing will be purely data-driven with messaging delivered to individuals, not the masses. At every micro moment of decision, you’ll be aiming to have influence. This means you’ll need martech to capture and analyze data, and respond in real-time. Achieving this goal will require investment and careful planning. Deploying a customer data platform (CDP) is a great place to start.

In the quickly evolving marketing landscape, 5G stands as an enormous creative and strategic opportunity. It will reshape the industry, enabling marketers to forge new relationships between consumers and brands. To really hit the ground running when 5G arrives, it’s helpful to start asking big questions, like: What if speed and latency were no longer an issue? What projects would we create? Could we use AR and VR? Could we use more customer data, or use a customer data platform (CDP) in our marketing? Don’t wait for the customer data revolution to come to you before you embrace the new digital marketing revolution.

Lisa Stapleton
Lisa Stapleton
Lisa Stapleton is a former editorial director at IDG and former senior editor for InfoWorld and InformationWeek. She has written extensively about enterprise IT, business and environmental topics, and now serves as a senior marketing content manager for Treasure Data. She holds an MBA from Santa Clara, an Applied Math undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, and an MA in journalism from Mizzou. She also enjoys being a Toastmaster.
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