Digital MarketingIndustry DevelopmentsFour takeaways for CMOs from Mobile World Congress 2019

Four takeaways for CMOs from Mobile World Congress 2019

Nearly 110,000 people attended last week's huge event in Barcelona. 5G prototypes, D2C tech brands, and GDPR were just a few of the main takeaways.

Mobile World Congress has become an increasingly big platform for not only smartphone-minded marketers but for the entire global business community.

Nearly 110,000 people last week attended the event in Barcelona, where it’s not uncommon for huge telecoms to send more than 1,000 representatives to work the floor and meeting rooms. Swedish telecom giant Ericsson even created a dedicated microsite to promote its agenda for MWC.

5G and IoT were dominating topics, as various wireless executives were on stage for an opening keynote on February 25th to address this subject: Intelligently Connecting the World.

I love that the word “Intelligently” was the first word you see on the event program because how marketers approach the 5G era is going to be crucial.

Consumers are already inundated with messaging via digital channels. So we need to think through how branded content is distributed and orchestrated as our technological powers increase.

With that in mind, there were four big marketer-minded topics at MWC — which, as always, took place on Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coast.

Four takeways from Mobile World Congress 2019

1. Data is going to transform how we shop

One of the speakers who really stood out to me was Heba Bevan, CEO and founder of UtterBerry. The company combines sensors-based location data and AI to help municipalities maintain safer roads and bridges.

Sensors open up a world of data that can not only help governments better function, but they also can make retail stores more wisely designed and make our brand messaging better timed.

At the same time, we need to acknowledge that consumers are, at times, going to want to be left alone.

Combined with mobile app data, sensors-produced data can help brands customize their audiences according to how each consumer wants to receive messages. Some will want a text, others an email, others a push notification.

The more we can add context to how they interact in the real world, the more we can tailor the kind of messages they want and how they get them. This customer experience will benefit everyone—brands, customers and technology platforms.

2. D2C is the talk of tech

There was an entire MWC track dedicated to the convergence of digital with physical stores.

Here’s why: Direct-to-consumer brands like Bonobos, Everlane and Beautycounter are meshing digital with brick-and-mortar stores so that shopping feels truly personal.

Data-based intelligence is at the heart of how they are transforming the marketplace, changing how we shop and blurring the lines between channels.

In fact, one-third of consumers plan to do at least 40 percent of their shopping from D2C companies in the next five years. And 81 percent plan to make at least one purchase from a D2C brand.

The impact of this phenomena cannot be denied, and MWC programmers have clearly taken note.

3. Ethics are big

Considering how important data privacy is in Europe—look no further than the implementation of General Data Protection Regulation—it wasn’t surprising that AI ethics was a hot topic at the continent’s biggest tech festival.

Artificial intelligence is powering algorithms to make them smarter and smarter, which, in turn, should improve lives and businesses at the same time.

But it’s important that we use AI to power messaging and the customer experience responsibly. We are at an inflection point. The decisions we make on this front will have ramifications for marketers for years to come.

There’s a strong “fear narrative” out there about how ill-conceived AI tools perpetuate unfairness, even though data scientists and AI specialists are being encouraged to make AI fairer and more accountable. These factors are why there were various speakers addressing AI ethics at this year’s MWC.

4. 5G reigned supreme

With AT&T soon rolling out 5G in about a dozen U.S. cities, this long-anticipated technology is becoming a reality.

It represents a radical shift in bandwidth. Huge files that currently take a day to download will take place in a minute or less.

Marketers will be able to text message 30-minute branded films (if they so choose). The impact on mobile video will be huge. The technology also looks to forever advance mobile gaming and virtual reality use cases.

What’s more, 5G will impact IoT and self-driving or smart cars and how all of our devices talk to each other.

It’s going to be hard to attend a panel and not hear “5G” at some point. And that’s why companies like OnePlus showed 5G prototypes at MWC.

The amount of data that will soon be going through our home appliances, cars, and other devices is going to be astronomical.

Overall, MWC 2019 revealed how AI and 5G are going to be the linchpins for a fuller data picture while scaling 1:1 marketing with orchestrated messaging. The event also showed marketers need to be transparent and ethical with how we acquire, manage, and use the great data that’s on the way.

Mike Herrick is SVP of Product and Engineering at Urban Airship.

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