With Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the new year just over the horizon, forward-thinking marketers should set their sights on what Santa has in store for us in 2019. At the top of my list is 5G, the next generation of mobile internet connectivity that will give smartphones and marketers the video power to connect to consumers in ways unimaginable until now. It will also allow recreational boating to be portrayed in all of its visual glory.
According to Roger Cheng of CNET, “the 5G technology promises to change our lives by connecting everything around us to a network that is 100 times faster than our cellular connection and 10 times faster than our speediest home broadband service” (see https://www.cnet.com/news/5g-not-just-speed-fifth-generation-wireless-tech-lets-you-do-vr-self-driving-cars-drones-remote).
But it’s not just about speed for speed’s sake, says Cheng. “While the move from 3G to 4G was about faster connections, the evolution to 5G is so much more. The combination of speed, responsiveness and reach could unlock the full capabilities of other hot trends in technology, offering a boost to self-driving cars, drones, virtual reality and the internet of things,” he points out.
To put it more dramatically, “It’s the first time the network will be faster than your mind,” says Ericsson Chief Technology Officer Ulf Ewaldson.
So, does your head spin when the latest device comes on the market and you have to ask a Millennial how to make it work? Do you cringe at the thought of trying to get your head around just how revolutionary 5G is going to be? Here’s a solution. Spend less than five minutes on the “5G in 5 Minutes” video with Skyworks Solutions CTO Peter Gammel who – in pictures and plain English – explains 5G so even those still using flip phones and VHS tapes will understand what it’s all about (see http://www.skyworksinc.com/Products_5G_in_5_Minutes.aspx).
Now that you have a conceptual overview of 5G, just how will it impact marketing? Here’s a must-read article “5G, Next Gen Mobile” by Ad Age’s George Slefo (see http://adage.com/article/news/5g-gen-mobile/308148/).
Slefo has a great quote from Julie Coppernoll, VP of global marketing at Intel, that is particularly insightful: “When we look at the smartphone, we say, that’s mobile and everything else is tethered. I think that is going to change. I think nothing will be ‘mobile’ anymore because everything will be mobile.”
Think about the possibilities. In past columns I’ve explored certain potential aspects of 5G, especially virtual reality (completely computer-generated world) and augmented reality (added digital information) that I think are tailor-made to grow recreational boating.
To put these coming changes into perspective, just think about the mobile video revolution that has taken place in our lives just since 4G was launched a mere eight years ago. Today, consumer reliance on video is astounding. Consider these remarkable statistics according to Jesse Mawhinney of HubSpot (see https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/visual-content-marketing-strategy):
When 5G is fully rolled out over the next few years, these trends will only accelerate. If the next generation of boating leaders are smart, they will embrace this new technology with open arms.
The alternative to doing business as it has been done for generations is downright depressing. Consider Grow Boating’s recent study with marketing consultant Olson which determined that there are a million fewer first-time boat buyers today than a decade ago — a 30 percent decline in first-time used-boat buyers and a 54 percent drop in first-time, new-boat buyers.
Or, how about this revelation: Only about two in 100 people who are researching their first boat will actually buy one, and only one of the two will keep it. I literally fell out of my chair when I saw these numbers.
The problem is well-known and two-fold. First, how to get more folks into boating and second, how to retain them as active owners and participants. A solution for the latter will, in my humble opinion, require a drastic reimaging of this industry. For more insight into this see my colleague Reagan Haynes’ article “The First Time Buyer Blues” at https://www.tradeonlytoday.com/grow-boating/the-first-time-buyer-blues.
As to the former problem, the good news is that we can make boating more appealing if we can figure out a way of harnessing these new technologies to capture the imagination of an ever-increasing segment of consumers who are always in search of an experience they just can’t get elsewhere. Virtual and augmented reality should – in the not too distant future – be able to deliver an experience more than sufficient to kindle the interest of consumers at a fraction of the cost and with a lot more pizzazz than is currently the case.
Think this is pie-in-the sky? Consider the online video gaming industry that has been transformed from a motley crew of nerds in their parents’ basements into a multi-billion industry that claims more than 100 million active participants (see https://www.limelight.com/blog/state-of-online-gaming-2018/).
Connecting to upcoming generations is going to require the boating industry to get out of its comfort zone. To take a peek at this brave new world, ask a Millennial about interactive pop-up “museums” such as the Museum of Ice Cream, Rose Mansion or the Dream Machine. They are attracting hundreds of visitors a day at $35 or more a ticket, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. They deliver a surreal experience that patrons share on Instagram and Snapchat (see https://www.scribd.com/article/386368622/Snap-Til-You-Shop). Recreational boating should have one, too.
I’m convinced there are lessons to be learned and boatloads of money to be made if we just open our eyes and take a giant leap forward.