Fast Forward: Mobile World Congress 2017 Trend Recap

By Richard Yao March 8, 2017

Editor’s Note: As with all Fast Forward analysis, this recap first went out to our subscribers via newsletter one day prior to its posting on this site. We also customized our recap to offer tailored CES insights for brands in eight verticals including auto, CPG, retail, travel, and more. For inquiries about joining our subscription list, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Holland (samantha@ipglab.com).

The highlights:

  • Mobile industry starts to move beyond smartphone, looking to explore 5G-powered IoT devices as the next growth area
  • Artificial intelligence sets to bring new dimensions to UX design and power innovative customer solutions
  • Virtual reality had a strong showing, beginning to mature as an interactive, experiential marketing tool

Last week, the Lab team crossed the Atlantic to attend the 2017 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. We were joined by our friends at Ansible, who launched the MDEX, a global index for assessing brand performance and mobile readiness, with a keynote address from Global President Travis Johnson. Together, we scouted the exhibition floors, attended keynote events, and met with industry leaders, innovative startups, and clients. In addition to our daily updates on the big announcements, the Lab is now proud to present this final recap on the most important trends we saw at this year’s event.

For the last few years, we have seen a steady expansion of the common topics at MWC, which started as a trade show for the mobile industry but has since grown to cover a variety of adjacent domains within the digital economy. This trend is particularly pronounced this time around, with talks of 5G, IoT, and Artificial Intelligence dominating the event. As the industry begins to branch out of building the next flashy smartphone to figure out what might be “The Next Element,” the event theme of this year, it sends marketers a harbinger of the changes to come.


5G Is The Near Future

5G has been a topic of discussion at MWC in the years past, albeit mostly as a future aspiration for the industry. But this year, the industry is abuzz with key players pushing for the next-level cellular wireless connectivity with actual products and initiatives.

Samsung hosted a 5G-heavy press conference on Sunday to announce a long list of new devices and IoT efforts that will support 5G. On Monday, Ericsson announced a collaboration on 5G trials with Qualcomm and NTT DOCOMO in Japan, as well as a partnership with Qualcomm to develop a new 5G radio for Vodafone. Cisco announced a partnership with Verizon that aims to help bring 5G connectivity to the enterprise market. Manufacturers such as ZTE, Nokia, and Intel all prominently featured 5G innovations in their press events and exhibitions.

What Brands Need To Do

Despite all the buzz around 5G, the reality remains that it is still at least 2 to 3 years away from deployment at scale. Speeding up cellular connectivity will not fundamentally alter consumer behaviors, although it will help brands to deliver more sophisticated creative in data-heavy formats, such as HD 360-degree video, to mobile users.

The real opportunity for brands that 5G brings lies in the vast number of IoT devices it will enable with a faster and more robust network. There will be over 24 billion connected devices is use by 2020, according to the estimation of BI Intelligence. From connected vehicles to home automation, 5G is set to unleash an unprecedented level of always-on connectivity to more and transform cars and home appliances into an extension of the digital media landscape. This will no doubt open up new channels for brands to reach their customers and gather valuable data.

For example, auto brands might consider integrating 5G connectivity into its infotainment systems to deliver a more reliable digital dashboard experience, whereas a retailer may start implementing 5G-enable IoT networks to power new in-store experiences.


The Rise Of AI-Powered Solutions

Besides the buzz around 5G, another hot topic at this year’s MWC is the quick advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning and how the AI-powered solutions will supercharge brand-customer interactions via the interfaces and personalization tools. And there’s a lot of vendors at the events that are putting AI into good use.

P&G-owned skincare brand Olay made their debut at MWC with the global launch of its AI-powered Skin Advisor platform. Available via Olay’s mini-site, the web-based skin analytics platform leverages artificial intelligence and deep learning to provide skin analysis and personalized product recommendations delivered right on their mobile phones or tablets.

Japan’s leading chat app Line announced Clova, an Alexa-like voice assistant it created with Naver, to bring AI-powered conversational services to the Asian markets. In addition, Line is working with the several companies including Sony and LG to integrate Clova into more consumer gadgets and connected devices.

It’s also telling how some brand executives at the event expressed their interests in AI-solutions. A Coca-Cola executive said the company is interested in using artificial intelligence to improve content, media, and commerce, especially in streamlining the ad creation process and experimenting with automated narratives. In his keynote session, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings revealed that the company is using an AI engine to tweak its video content to make them look good even over slow internet connection. He even jokingly suggested that in 50 years Netflix’s primary customers might be AI robots rather than humans.

What Brands Need To Do

For all the talks of innovations, the mobile tech world is also realizing that it needs to focus more on making the user experience as simple and seamless as possible to drive adoption and, in turn, more innovations. While a younger consumer may have little trouble in adopting the newest digital tools, such as mobile banking app, the older generations will likely need to be guided by a more intuitive and user-friendly UX design to get on board. In this regard, AI-powered solutions, such as voice-based conversational interfaces and personalized recommendations, are the key differentiators in building a more intuitive and frictionless customer experience for all.

The rapid advances in AI and machine learning have the potential to fundamentally change brand-customer relationships and significantly increase customer expectations, especially in regards to customization and user experiences. Smarter chatbots and other AI-powered conversational services will allow brands to engage with even the most non-tech-savvy consumers. The majority of customer service will soon become automated, so there’s no more excuse for latency in replies. In addition, brands also need to figure out how they can leverage their customer data to provide customers personalized experiences with the help of an AI engine.

To more effectively reach customers, for example, CPG brands will need to apply AI to analyze customer data for purchase trends in order to create personalized product recommendations and contextual value offers. For healthcare and fitness brands, AI-powered solutions can be used to analyze health or workout data for behavioral insights in order to deliver personalized health or exercise recommendations.


Virtual Reality Gets More Interactive

Despite the lack of VR-ready smartphones announced at this year’s MWC, virtual reality still had a strong showing as the technology continues to mature. Samsung unveiled the redesigned Gear VR headset, which now comes with a handheld controller for easier and more precise navigation and interactions. Previously, Gear VR users had to rely on head-tracking to navigate the VR experiences. Plus, the company is also reported to be secretly showing off standalone VR headsets that can operate without Samsung smartphones.

Similarly, LG also unveiled the VR headset prototype it has been working on with Valve, and the results are pretty much positively close to the HTC Vive – currently the gold standard in VR headset technology – if not better. Like the HTC Vive, the new LG VR headset uses Valve’s Lighthouse tracking technology to let you walk around a room, or uses its two controllers to reach out and grab things in virtual experiences.

Beyond the usual VR players, Korea Telecom offered up one of the more fun and innovative VR experience at the event. The carrier teamed up with K-pop band Twice to create a music video that doubles as a VR roller coaster ride. Attendees are strapped into a hamster-wheel-like device, which tumbled in tandem with the visuals to create an intense, full-body VR experience.

What Brands Need To Do

As virtual reality hardware continues to develop, the simulated experiences will only become more interactive and immersive, which opens up new opportunities for brands looking to engage their audience.

While many brands have dipped their toes into VR content, they often opt for the easier route of creating 360-degree videos viewable in VR headsets. In the past two months alone, we have seen brands like Ford, Häagen-Dazs, and Expedia to do just that. Moving forward, however, that will soon become inadequate, as the lack of interaction severely hampers the sense of immersion. To unlock the full power of VR experience, brands will have to move beyond simple 360-degree videos and work with VR content creators to build more sophisticated virtual experiences.

Retailers, for example, can create fun shopping-themed VR experiences to draw in customers. For entertainment brands, this could mean developing a short interactive VR experience to promote new releases or teaming up with game developers to feature some of your IPs in their works.


How We Can Help

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all these latest trends in consumer tech? The Lab is here to help. We have extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and AI-powered chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

Additionally, if you want to learn more about how to employ AI beyond conversational interfaces or chat some more about the latest sleep tech boom, we have more strategic insights on these topics that we are happy to share and customize for your brand as well.

As for VR, our dedicated team of experts is here to guide marketers through the distribution landscape. We work closely with brands to develop sustainable VR content strategies to promote branded VR and 360 video content across various apps and platforms. With our proprietary technology stack powered by a combination of best-in-class VR partners and backed by the media fire-power of IPG Mediabrands, we offer customized solutions for distributing and measuring branded VR content that truly enhance brand messaging and contribute to the campaign objectives.

If you’d like to know how the Lab can help your brand figure out how to tap into these tech trends from the MWC to supercharge your brand with digital solutions, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Holland (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglab.com. Please reply with any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your input will help us immensely.

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