When 5G wireless networks and devices start to take hold later this year, they will fundamentally change consumer behavior and open up new marketing opportunities for companies — as well as new pitfalls. It’s a game-changer, because 5G wireless is roughly 10 times faster than today’s 4G networks and provides much more accurate location information. Just like the arrival of 4G made it possible for services like Uber and Lyft to launch, 5G will be the catalyst for a new wave of tech giants.
Let’s discuss the ramifications of 5G wireless for mobile and cross-channel marketers, but first let's look at...
How 5G wireless will change consumer behavior
When 5G arrives, supported mobile devices will have speeds that are much faster than even today’s Wi-Fi. This makes browsing the internet, watching videos, and making purchases much more attractive on mobile devices.
The arrival of 5G will also likely prompt a huge wave of smartphone upgrades. In addition to being on a faster network, these smartphones will have much better screens, faster processors, higher-resolution cameras, and other improved components. All of these together will allow for much more compelling mobile experiences and will likely spur even more consumers to use their mobile devices more often. Already, 37% of web traffic and 56% of revenue is from mobile devices, according to Smart Insights. Those numbers will surely rise in the coming years as 5G rolls out to more communities.
While 5G networks are currently limited, their expansion will be fueled by the debut of 5G-compatible Apple iPhones and Android phones this fall. Once wireless customers have compatible devices, carriers will start competing for these customers by building out their networks. This build-out will take some time, but 5G should be a common experience for the majority of Americans within the next three to five years.
How 5G wireless will impact marketers
The rollout of 5G opens up a variety of opportunities for marketers, but also raises risks for brands that fail to offer a good mobile experience. Here are some areas to focus on:
Today, it takes about 6 minutes to download a 3D feature film. With 5G, that’s reduced to just 30 seconds or less. That lowers the bar for watching a movie, as well as on-demand webinars and other kinds of video and streaming content. Higher download speeds will be a boon for branded video content on businesses’ websites and on their social media pages, too.
Richer website design
More mobile bandwidth would seriously diminish concerns about website load times, allowing businesses to use more images, animation, and—as already mentioned—video. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. After all, busy and phrenic web designs are confusing to visitors because they don’t know where to direct their attention. However, 5G does allow for more rich content with fewer worries.
Richer email design
5G would similarly diminish concerns about email load times. Marketers could be more casual about using retina and even 4K images in emails, and could use animated gifs that are larger in size and have more frames. It might also accelerate adoption of CSS-based email interactivity and AMP for Email, creating more web-like experiences in the inbox.
Precise location-triggered messaging
5G wireless is much more accurate in pinpointing a user’s location. While 4G can only tell a user’s location within 1 mile, 5G is accurate to within 3 feet. That means, for instance, that a retailer would be able to tell what product display the user is standing in front of in their store. They could use that information to enhance their customer profile and personalize future emails, or to immediately trigger a push notification or SMS message to promote the product the customer is standing in front of or the department they’re standing in.
Mainstreaming of virtual and augmented reality
5G will spur the adoption of virtual reality and augmented reality. The former is where a completely new landscape is presented to viewers, while the latter is where information and graphics are overlaid on top of whatever the viewer is looking at. For example, virtual reality allows potential home buyers to tour properties from anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, augmented reality allows shoppers to see how a new sofa would look in their living room or how new glasses would look on their face. These are niche experiences today but will become much more commonplace in a 5G world.
Tighter omnichannel orchestration
More bandwidth and more powerful apps naturally create opportunities to weave your channels together to enhance the customer experience. Digital wallets for in-store contactless payments, app-based check-ins for curbside pickup, and the aforementioned virtual and augmented reality scenarios are just the tip of the iceberg of what will be possible.
Increased privacy concerns and controls
The Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are proof of mounting momentum behind the need for regulations to catch up to the privacy issues caused by technology. 5G wireless will only accelerate this clear trend. In addition to the potential for more privacy laws, especially the establishment of a national privacy standard in the US, we’re likely to see mobile operating system makers and app makers providing more user controls and permissions, especially around location-based services. Brands will also need to collect clear consents during app downloads, for instance.
That’s just the start of a long list of ways that 5G wireless will affect marketers. There will surely be developments we haven’t foreseen and new services and functionality that no one has even imagined yet. In the coming months and years, smart organizations will watch their digital marketing metrics and customer behaviors closely, looking for major shifts. While overall change may occur slowly, there are likely to be individual behaviors that will change rapidly. You won’t want to miss those.
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