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Mobile World Congress Recap: Key Trends and Takeaways for Marketers

Last week, over 107,000 visitors traveled to Barcelona for a chance to connect on all things connected at Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile industry gathering. While smartphone launches captured much of the MWC spotlight, it’s advancements in the technology powering these devices that really shape the landscape. Here’s a summary of our key learnings from MWC 2018 on four broad topics that dominated the conversation –– IoT, AI, 5G, and GDPR –– and will undoubtedly transform digital marketing in the very near future.

Everything will be connected.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution was one of the eight event themes this year at MWC. We are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and interact with one another.  And at its heart, lies mobile.

Mobile has transformed telecom, entertainment, and retail, and it is now helping to scale adjacent technologies –– like IoT –– that will soon influence nearly every type of industry. In 2018, the number of IoT devices (which include connected cars, machines, meters, wearables and other consumer electronics) will surpass the number of mobile phones. By 2022, there will be an an estimated 29 billion connected devices. As Julie Coppernoll, VP of global marketing at Intel, states: “Nothing will be ‘mobile’ anymore because everything will be mobile.”

What it means for marketers:

  • The growth of IoT will result in exponential growth in consumer data.
  • IoT opens up new consumer touchpoints and opportunities for engagement. AI home speakers (e.g., Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple Homepod) are just one example of new devices where we’re likely to see adtech innovation driving monetization.
  • More consumer touchpoints means increased fragmentation, so accurate, holistic attribution will become more important than ever.  

Everything will be intelligent.

AI was everywhere at MWC 2018. The newest chips from Qualcomm, Samsung, and Huawei, among others, are built with AI computation in mind. Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus (arguably the most-hyped smartphone announcements at MWC) feature the second generation of Samsung’s smartphone AI, Bixby, who’s virtual assistant now includes live image translation and enhanced place recognition.  While Huawei didn’t launch a new smartphone at MWC, they did showcase the ability of their smartphone AI software to power a self-driving Porsche.

While the application of AI in consumer tech excites the imagination, the impact of AI on marketing is broad and far-reaching –– from enabling personalized consumer engagement, to improved consumer analytics, to fraud detection. Additionally, growth in IoT means exponential growth in consumer data, and AI is the key to extracting value from the rich data sets enabled by these connected technologies.

What it means for marketers:

  • AI will enable true customer understanding and engaging, personalized consumer experiences.
  • Improvements in AI will mean the rise of more effective mobile ad fraud detection solutions.
  • AI is the key to extracting value from the rich data sets enabled by new connected devices.

AI will also be critical for harnessing the power of 5G –– another hot topic at MWC this year –– through optimized mobile traffic routing, automatic network problem detection and repair, and more.

5G is coming.

MWC 2018 was filled with 5G announcements from technology providers and carriers alike: Intel showcased its first 5G-enabled 2-in-1 concept PC, Huawei launched its first commercial 5G CPE as part of its end-to-end 5G solution, Sprint announced that it will be bringing 5G networks to six cities (Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston) by April, and T-Mobile announced that it will begin building out 5G across 30 cities this year.

For consumers, 5G means significantly improved connection speeds and reduced latency –– as well as the realization of the promise of IoT: 5G could make autonomous cars, connected homes, and smart cities mainstream. 5G will also bring high-speed internet access to millions of rural consumers.

Despite the excitement, the industry admits that 5G is still a few years out. As T-Mobile’s CTO Neville Ray explained during a MWC panel discussion: “Believe me, 4G is far from dead… 5G is not ready. It is maturing quickly, but it is not real today.”

What it means for marketers:

  • 5G will significantly improve connection speeds and reduce latency, advancing video advertising and other rich formats, and ultimately improving the digital consumer experience.
  • As more rural consumers gain access to high-speed internet, advertisers will finally be able to message this historically difficult-to-reach market through digital media.
  • As mobile becomes the primary means of media consumption, the relationships between content creators, distributors, and consumers continues to evolve. Soon, unprecedented volumes of data will be in the hands of telecom companies.  This has the potential to disrupt the Google and Facebook duopoly in digital advertising.

GDPR readiness is top-of-mind for all.

When the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect on May 25, it will impact not only EU-based organizations, but also data controllers and processors handling European data around the world. With GDPR right around the corner, it’s not surprising that consumer data privacy and security was top-of-mind for everyone at MWC.

Several MWC sessions focused on the impact of GDPR.  At a workshop on GDPR readiness, IBM provided guidance to brands as well as a more optimistic perspective: GDPR is ultimately about doing the right thing by your customers, employees, and suppliers –– and effective GDPR preparation opens a pathway to competitive differentiation. In preparing for GDPR, organizations will gain deep knowledge about how their data is being used –– and can leverage this to create the kind of personalization that is the dream of modern marketers.

What it means for marketers:

  • Consumers will soon have significantly more control over how their data is used ––  and say in what they get in exchange for providing personal data to brands.
  • GDPR and similar regulations highlight the need for marketers to take control of their advertising and ensure that only trusted partners are in the chain.
  • Though the path may not be easy, improved data governance ultimately provides an opportunity for deeper customer engagement, engendering trust among consumers, and competitive differentiation via strong customer relationships.  


1. The digital consumer experience must be more personalized than ever. Mobile has transformed the way consumers interact with brands, and the way brands interact with consumers. Consumers are no longer satisfied with just transactional exchanges; consumer relationships today must be intelligent and personalized. For brands, this means using data, analytics, automation, and AI to enhance the customer experience the right way.

2. Location data will grow in importance. The growth of AI and IoT (enabled by 5G) promises to lift location-based services to new heights. As more consumers become increasingly connected, location data will provide an even more robust and real-time understanding of who consumers are and what they want.

3. With great data comes great responsibility. The growth of IoT and adoption of 5G means exponential growth in consumer data, while new regulation will provide consumers with significantly more control over how their personal data is used for marketing. Organizations must evolve their processes and technology to protect the digital identity and data privacy of their customer base –– and demand that their partners do the same. GDPR and similar regulations highlight the need for marketers to take control of their advertising and ensure that only compliant partners are in the chain. Transparency is more important now than ever.

For more information about how Factual’s high-quality location data can help you reach your goals, contact our team today.