5G is coming, and it’s going to change your mobile-first marketing strategy

Jackson Kushner

5G networks have been around since 2019, and although they haven’t taken as large a market share as expected at the time, their influence is growing. In many ways this is unsurprising; demand for high-bandwidth mobile browsing capabilities has exploded over the last few years. This has led to new trends in digital marketing: today’s organic posts, ads, emails, and other marketing assets aren’t just mobile-friendly, they’re designed for mobile.

As more consumers get access to 5G on their mobile devices, marketing teams at the world’s top brands will have to keep up with new opportunities. Here’s what you need to know so your brand can adapt to stay ahead of the 5G curve.

Bandwidth for all: The rise of 5G

Verizon released its 5G (or fifth-generation) wireless network in April 2019, and several other providers soon followed. There was a great deal of hype surrounding these launches, as 5G promised to be far faster than previous technologies. Indeed, results were impressive — 5G boasts speeds 10x faster than 4G, as well as lower latencies (response times for data transfer).

Surprisingly, however, this marked improvement in speed was anticlimactic, meeting with mixed reviews. Several issues affect the new technology: it was expensive to use, and its release was limited to a handful of cities. Even within those cities, only certain hotspot areas offered 5G access, and only for a shortlist of devices.

Of course, as with any emerging technology, success doesn’t happen overnight. Despite 5G’s lackluster performance so far, it still has superior capabilities, and many experts expect it to take off in 2020. According to a December 2019 World Economic Forum article, there are 50 5G network deployments in 27 countries and an additional 328 operators across 109 countries that are investing in 5G.

Immersive technologies going mobile

Marketers have long considered immersive technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to be fertile ground for paid ads. But due to the significant bandwidth that VR and AR devices require, opportunities in these areas were limited based on wifi access. 5G, coupled with improving VR and AR technology, has the potential to change this.

This change may occur more rapidly than others; Gartner forecasts that in 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in AR online and in-store. The retail industry will most likely account for a significant chunk of this rapid increase; 64% of consumers want a virtual shopping assistant that combines AR and artificial intelligence (AI), and one in five consumers already expect retailers to have AR tools.

With the introduction of 5G, marketers will be able to experiment more with immersive technologies to make the customer journey and experience more interactive and fun. Of course, with the impact that COVID-19 has already had on brick and mortar retail, VR and AR may play an even larger role than expected. With these technologies, brands will be able to reach out to remote customers more effectively, reduce return rates of products, and ultimately increase purchase conversion. These statistics don't just create a safer shopping environment; they also indicate an effective marketing strategy.

To get ideas for VR and AR social marketing campaigns, check out examples from brands like Playstation and Old Spice in our Social Media Pocket Guide.

The ever-increasing dominance of video in social media marketing

The idea that video will dominate social media marketing, especially in paid ads, is nothing new. Video has been on the rise for years, and many brands are reaping the benefits. Indeed, 84% of consumers say that they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video.

Still, one of the most significant challenges in producing and sharing video content is bandwidth. It’s frustrating for a consumer to pull up a video on their phone then buffer their way through it on a substandard network.

The proliferation of accessible and affordable 5G networks will largely solve this problem. 5G networks decrease buffering times significantly and reduce lag time, creating a nearly seamless streaming experience. Consumers are very excited about this feature. In a study conducted by Verizon Media, when consumers were asked what they’re most excited for with 5G benefits, 57% were excited about higher definition content and 54% were excited about consistent and better quality video streaming. In fact, WARC’s 2020 Marketer’s Toolkit ranks online video as the top category for increased investment.

All this is to say that video will only increase its dominance in digital marketing, and this creates new opportunities for enterprise marketers. First and foremost, this is an opportunity for marketers to create value by investing in video production if they haven’t already. This doesn’t have to mean hiring an expensive firm to produce high-quality ads; DIY-produced video content often does just as well, as large companies like Walmart and Google have shown. Production quality doesn’t have to be excellent in order to produce excellent content; all you need is the strong, creative marketing team that you already have — and a phone to record some video. We cover tons of easy and effective ways to incorporate video and live streams into your social media strategy in our Social Media Pocket Guide.

Animation has also become more popular as an inexpensive way of producing engaging video content for paid ads and organic posts alike. Animated videos typically cost less than live-action videos to produce, and they can communicate information efficiently with bold graphics. Best of all production is quarantine-friendly!

Perhaps your brand already has an active video presence on your website as well as YouTube, Instagram, and other social media channels. One area bound to grow as a result of better mobile bandwidth is live video. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram already support live streaming, but this is usually still considered an emerging technology — and most B2C brands haven’t touched it yet. The 2020 WARC Marketer’s Toolkit ranks live video third in importance in the “emerging technologies” category, so this is an excellent opportunity for enterprise marketers to branch out and get creative on a platform that will be very big very soon.

Enhanced IoT capabilities

It’s not just computers, smartphones, and smart TVs that connect to the internet; a wide range of products can do so as well. These days, everything from wearable devices like Apple Watches and FitBits to home devices like thermostats, doorbells, and even barbecues can connect to the internet. These devices make up the Internet of Things, or IoT.

IoT device functionality is one area that will see significant improvement when running on a 5G network. Although many IoT devices can function on 4G, connections between devices generally couldn’t rely on transferring large amounts of data because there simply wasn’t enough bandwidth. 5G’s improved bandwidth and faster speeds largely solve this problem, allowing deeper connections between devices. This creates opportunities for marketers, who can take advantage of more abundant data to optimize their marketing strategies and run personalized, contextual, and location-based ads.

For instance, if a consumer has a smart fridge, marketers can use the data from a consumer’s smart fridge to send a notification to their smartwatch or mobile phone that they are out of something, along with an ad showing where they can pick up that item on the way home. Although this level of precision in targeting is still a little way out, there are many effective targeting strategies you can implement today from our Social Media Pocket Guide. When it does arrive, enhanced IoT powered by 5G will enable marketers to serve hyper-targeted content, driving engagement, and conversions that previously couldn’t have happened.

Consumers may notice faster speeds and other convenient features as 5G networks grow across the world. Marketers, on the other hand, are in for a far more significant adjustment to keep up with new opportunities. Immersive technologies, improved video capabilities, and enhanced IoT functionality are just a few of the opportunities that will arise; but with a careful yet aggressive approach, enterprise marketers can improve KPIs and ultimately drive their businesses forward.

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