Love it or hate it, Mobile World Congress (MWC) never fails to turn heads in the marketing world. This year was no exception.
Despite a look back – in the form of Nokia’s nostalgic 3310 re-launch – stealing the show early on, the main headlines were all about looking forward. From IoT, VR and AI to driverless cars and 5G, marketers’ appetites were whetted by a future filled with endless new opportunities to turbocharge consumer engagement.
For me though, it was the underlying data trends emerging from Barcelona that I found most exciting, and specifically what they mean for brands looking to create stronger and more meaningful relationships with mobile users today, and not just fueling innovative experiences down the line.
So, based on observations on the ground last week, here are my top three data takeaways for marketers from MWC 2017:
1. Power (back) to the people
With rapidly shifting consumer attitudes towards data privacy, and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force in 2018, one of the big themes of this year’s event centred around giving control back to consumers in how their personal data is used.
This was exemplified by the launch of Telefonica’s artificial intelligence powered app, Aura. Its primary aim is to empower customers to decide whether or not to share information with third parties, such as Google or Facebook.
We also learned that out of the 2 million connected cars BMW produces each year, over 20 per cent of owners opt-in to give the brand feedback. This invaluable direct user data, captured via its machine-learning ConnectedDrive platform, is helping to shape the brand’s personalised autonomous driving experiences, as well as forming a key pillar of how BMW markets its connected cars.
These are just two examples, among many others during the week, that demonstrate a very real movement across the marketing industry to take a more open and customer-centric approach to the use of personal data.
The rise of ‘Me2B’, as it is sometimes called, is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Marketers must ensure that measures are built in to all data collection processes that deliver full transparency, and empower the user to opt-in or opt-out at any time.
The brands, platforms and publishers that place data trust first and foremost in their strategies will be the ones that reap the most benefit from an improved “social contract” with their users, ultimately leading to more effective targeting, increased engagement, and better campaign performance and ROI.
2. First-party data wins!
When new first-data players, such as Telefonica and BMW, promise improved clarity in the personal data vs. relevant content value-exchange, everybody wins. Brands get better data and consumers get better experiences.
As more marketers and content owners recognise the importance of dealing only with directly-collected, fully verified, permission-based user data, the hope for a transparent, less complex and more efficient adtech and data ecosystem gets ever closer.
Relying on first-party data for targeting is the best way for brands to create momentum in the relationships with customers, and drive value from their digital investments.
Across the industry, brands are increasingly less willing to simply accept the word of data providers. As ad performance metrics are more closely monitored, questions around the quality and veracity of data are getting louder, and many players will not survive the scrutiny.
3. Running with 5G before walking with 4G?
The promise of 5G, to power everything from IoT to VR with ease, was so strongly on show at MWC that one would think it was already here. We all know this reality is quite a way off yet.
Despite the exciting announcements and fanfare, one couldn’t escape a certain degree of cynicism as questions remained around the appetite among telcos to fund 5G, and whether the ambitious timelines are realistic to support the infrastructure rollout needed.
This echoes the findings of Ogury’s in-depth global mobile connectivity and network usage study that raises fresh concerns over the need to improve 4G, before pinning all of our hopes on the next generation.
With Facebook grabbing headlines for saying that video is undervalued, despite projecting that 75 per cent of mobile data will be video-based by 2020, it only reinforced the need to optimise 4G now to give consumers what they want, anytime and anywhere today.
The poor state of 4G should be a concern for advertisers, marketers and media owners alike, as it is inhibits their ability serve them the type of visual content demanded by consumers right now, such as reliable and high quality video streaming. The sooner this is addressed, the sooner we can all move onto an exciting future of 5G connectivity and mobile VR experiences on the go.
As ever, MWC provides an exciting glimpse into tomorrow’s tech under the caveat that prototypes will evolve. What’s interesting this year is that so many devices are reliant on a secure and reliable 5G future, yet there are still many uncertainties surrounding this.
It is encouraging that many brands are beginning to embrace a customer-centric personal data approach though. I’m already looking forward to next year, when maybe this will be a given rather than a goal.