The wireless tech is primed to create opps in market research, qualitative data and VR, writes Delvinia’s Steve Mast.

First published on Strategy Online.

Marketers have a natural aversion to hype. Who can blame them? They’re bombarded daily with stories about new technologies and shifting consumer habits that require urgent action. If they jumped at everything, they’d have no time to do their jobs.

So they could be forgiven for getting glazy-eyed when hearing about 5G, which is far more promise than action. Don’t fall into that trap. It may not be here yet, but even if we realize only half of the benefits promised by 5G, the implications for marketers are remarkable. Imagine a world where people enjoy blazing-fast mobile connections no matter where they are. Where virtual reality, facial recognition and autonomous cars suddenly realize their full potential once latency is a thing of the past.

This has major implications for marketers. The move to 5G opens new — and in many ways, still unknown — horizons. We’ll have to wait until the early 2020s to understand exactly what all this means, but that doesn’t prevent marketers from starting to prepare. Let’s take a quick look at some of the ways a more connected world operating on lightning-fast networks may impact data collection and other areas, starting with consumer insight.

Supercharged consumer insight technology

The progression from in-person research to online research and now mobile market research has provided many benefits to data collection; it’s made conducting research faster, cheaper, and (when executed correctly) more accurate. But those are just the table stakes. The power of 5G will go much further in unleashing the full potential of mobile research.

It starts with the research experience itself. Mobile provides the ability to capture in-context and rich media research, such as video insights, better than any other instrument. All the things consumers have resigned themselves to, like slow image and video loading, will vanish, making even complex surveys less “clunky.” In fact, it’s likely marketers will benefit from the ability to create far more sophisticated and intuitive research models once they, and consumers, are freed from current technical constraints. The improved battery life promised by 5G will also make it less likely that those doing surveys will cut and run before completion. Marketers can also look forward to more precise geo-fencing, less affected by the size of crowds, weather conditions or pockets of poor connectivity.

Simply put, 5G will usher in a new age of consumer insight technology, with marketers primed to benefit.

An explosion in online qualitative

The use of online qualitative has become ubiquitous, far beyond what many thought possible just five years ago. 5G will set the stage for quantum leaps in this area — vastly improving the efficiency of current techniques and driving adoption for innovative, new methodologies. Imagine the advantages of far faster, more reliable connections for things like virtual shop-alongs, eye-tracking, webcam depth interviews, and live, online focus groups. Freed from 3G shackles, AI will jump to the forefront of consumer marketing and become a valuable tool for qualitative researchers, from execution and analysis of “big qual” studies to assisting moderators with fast-turn projects.

Virtual reality takes centre stage

It’s in this area where we’ll likely see some of the most groundbreaking strides. VR has come a long way, but cost and bandwidth limitations remain barriers. Once 5G hits the mainstream, all bets are off. Imagine a family taking a trip to the grocery store together, from their living room, guided by a remote moderator throughout the journey. Package, product, and shelf optimization using discrete-choice tasks will come to life in a virtual new world, without the restraints related to device type or connection speed and reliability.

CMOs have become used to a breakneck pace of change. But as the old saying goes, we ain’t seen nothing yet. That doesn’t mean 5G won’t have a direct impact on improving consumer insights. And that’s not all. The capabilities of 5G warrants careful watching and, for those who are prepared and willing to be bold, sets the stage for a new and dynamic age for marketers.