The future of marketing will happen in 5G. That’s what’s been promised, but the question remains—when will the rise of 5G fully take place, and what will it look like? While tech advancements and achievements in digital marketing are indeed speeding up, a McKinsey study predicted that, considering the significant build-outs that will need to take place to foster 5G adaption, the industry shouldn’t expect 5G to gain traction on a large scale until at least the early 2020s.
With just a few years to go before 5G takes the stage, now is the time to examine just how 5G will impact marketing and how advertisers can prepare for what’s to come.
The 5G Impact
While 5G has not yet been fully rolled out, many marketing experts expect 5G will be transformative. The latest 5G technology will be able to process significantly higher amounts of data at far greater speeds than current 4G devices. In December, AT&T announced they’ll be introducing a 5G hotspot with speeds 10 to 100 times faster than current 4G technology.
As a result, more users will be able to access the internet on a greater number—and variety—of devices at once. Consumers will be able to download everything from movies, games and TV shows to virtual reality experiences from their smartphones as well as other devices, all at speeds that will greatly reduce loading times.
Susan Borst, VP of mobile at IAB, emphasizes just how broad of a reach 5G will have, and as a result, how broadly it will impact marketing.
“While it’s easy to think of 5G’s impact on mobile devices,” Borst said, “What makes 5G so exciting is its on impact everything from mobile to so much more, including desktop, IoT, OOH, wearables, drone delivery, manufacturing, analytics-driven retail experiences and smart cities infrastructure.”
As users can access content at a rapid-fire pace, marketers will have more opportunities to reach their target audiences.
“One of the biggest challenges with gathering data from mobile users today is network reliability—it’s tough to upload app data or analytics data reliably when the user might be experiencing subpar network conditions,” Mason said. “But 5G offers greater range, improvements to MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) for congested networks, and overall increased speeds to send more data quicker.”
While exciting, marketers are sure to face challenges when adjusting to 5G technology, including meeting increased consumer expectations and extending to one of today’s biggest marketing challenges—ad blockers.
The rise of 5G may present opportunities for advertisers to reach consumers who would otherwise use ad blockers. As pages load more quickly using 5G technology, marketers may have an opportunity to introduce content to consumers without those users becoming frustrated as ads slow down their browsers.
A 2017 report by AdBlock Plus and Global Web Index found that 40 percent of those surveyed had used an ad blocker within the last month, but of those respondents, just 22 percent utilized ad blockers on their mobile devices.
Respondents gave a variety of reasons why they use ad blockers—33 percent said they used those blockers to “speed up the time it takes for things to load on my device.” Approximately 37 percent of respondents said ads “take up too much screen space and get in the way,” while 40 percent said they found “online ads intrusive.”
As 5G is adopted and download times decrease, marketers may be able to find ways to reach users who are less inclined to use ad blockers as ads, as well as websites, take less time to load. Advertisers can also use this opportunity to develop innovative solutions in advertising. With VR, AR, business intelligence and improved data collection on the table, now is the time for the industry to focus on digital innovation.
“The marketing industry needs to think about 5G as an opportunity to reinvent their offerings in the mobile space,” Mason said. “Experiences that were once relegated to WiFi are now going to be possible everywhere—what kind of sophisticated mobile apps would make sense in those contexts?”
Borst anticipates significant improvements in live streaming, as well as more accurate geofencing and next-generation VR, in addition to overall improvements in download times.
“With enhanced data in real time, the winning trifecta of getting the right message to the right person at the right time will no longer be a pipe dream,” Borst said.
Even while preparing for the adoption of 5G and the opportunities it presents, advertisers should anticipate the rollout be a gradual one. This transitional period presents its own set of marketing challenges.
“The biggest challenge in embracing 5G will be understanding that we will be in a 4G/5G hybrid world for a long time,” said Seth Dobbs, VP of engineering at Bounteous. “…Any marketing effort that embraces 5G will still need to consider a deprecated experience for 4G users.”
To keep pace with 5G advancements, Borst recommends getting on board with the changes as soon as possible, as well as to prepare for shifting U.S. and international data collection regulations.
“If applicable, creative should be developed based on assets that can be mixed and matched to provide the most relevant messaging to consumers,” she said. “For marketers who have been slow on creating video assets, now is the time to ramp up efforts and make sure their infrastructures are ready. Finally, as is the case today, marketers must be cognizant of the evolving public policy landscape in the US and abroad and the impact of what this means on data collection and use.”
The marketing industry faces unique challenges with 5G, as well as unique opportunities for growth, innovation and creativity. It may not be here tomorrow, but 5G is on its way, and when it arrives, advertisers should be prepared to keep up with technology and ultimately, to keep up with consumers as their everyday online experiences evolve.