Answer: Massive disruption as we know it.
Let’s start with the global pandemic. Like everyone, my household has had to adapt drastically in the face of a pandemic. In addition to stocking up on toilet-paper, our family’s digital dependence has sky-rocketed. It has exposed the limits of our internet access and Wi-Fi functionality, and frayed the fragile fabric of our family’s functionality. Our use of streaming video apps is much higher now, and it’s unlikely to go back to pre-pandemic levels long after the pandemic is gone. And we are not alone—in CMB’s COVID-19 tracking research, streaming video app usage across the US has also increased dramatically, and most people don’t expect it to return to pre-pandemic levels even after the virus is contained:
Putting this problem into the Fogg model, we see our motivation to try something different/better for our internet access situation has increased dramatically. But, like most zip codes, broadband ISP competition is scarce. Better internet access is competing with toilet paper now in that upper left-hand quadrant of Foggville:
And this brings me to 5G technologies, the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks and the successor to 4G LTE.* This technology will increase the ability of many people to significantly improve their internet connectivity and potential, either as a fixed internet access substitute alternative, or for some households who may want to use 5G cellular connectivity as their only internet access (both inside and outside the home):
Oh, yeah: and puberty? My household is also navigating this pandemic with two teenagers, which is a miserable time of life to be stuck in the house with your parents pretty much 24/7. GenZ is the first generation to grow up not knowing life before pervasive mobile internet connections. One of their first waking memories was discovering the delights of a mobile fart app on the iPhone. And while I personally thought that was the pinnacle of potential for the mobile internet at the time, the industry has since risen to much greater heights. 5G is going to open a whole new world of application possibilities, and GenZ will be key in determining which of these take off. Video-enabled communications with friends (TikTok, FaceTime, Zoom, etc.), and online gaming will benefit most from 5G in the near-term. Usage has gone through the roof since the pandemic, and is unlikely to ever fully return to “normal”. The next wave may well be driven by Virtual Reality and/or Augmented Reality-enabled applications. Coincidentally, GenZ have the strongest interest in VR/AR gaming, and we know this generation is using online multi-player gaming for socialization more than ever during the pandemic.
UNDERSTANDING HUMAN MOTIVATION IN THE FACE OF CHANGING TECH ABILITIES
Any company trying to capitalize on the opportunities presented by a dramatically increased ability to deliver new and better 5G-enabled services to people can benefit by analyzing which specific human motivations are most important for any given new service, and how the pandemic may have altered these.
Let’s take basic broadband internet access in my household as an example:
- FUNCTIONAL (what I want to do): our existing internet access is insufficient now that two teenagers are doing remote learning most days and two adults are teleworking: all four individuals are spending much more time on video streaming platforms, often simultaneously. This impacts the adults’ work productivity and the kids’ learning. Additionally, we are all streaming more digital entertainment (TV shows, movies, and online gaming for the kids) now that we don’t go out anymore. The Functional motivation is very clear.
- SOCIAL (where I want to belong): Other people I know have switched to a 5G internet service. I’ve heard through online forums from people I don’t know about their experiences with 5G.
- My kids rely on fast internet service with low latency for social connections. Problems with Facetime glitching or high ping/latency while playing Sea of Thieves with friends increases their (already high) sense of social isolation.
- IDENTITY (who I want to be): I’d like to think I’m smart, leading edge, and open to change. I won’t keep to the status quo just because it’s familiar. And I solve practical problems around the household.
- EMOTIONAL (how I want to feel): I am very frustrated and annoyed by my current internet service plan: the internet quality and reliability doesn’t meet my family’s current needs during this pandemic, I don’t feel like I’m getting value for the price I am currently paying, and I don’t feel respected when I call customer service.
- I feel anxious, however, that switching to 5G may compromise the security of my internet access. And I am concerned that it may be unreliable (e.g., glitchy when there is severe weather, because I’ve heard about this with satellite TV connections).
Across many industries and products, we have found that the emotional, identity, and/or social motivations are just as—and often more—important determinants of a new product’s success than the functional ones. And the interactions across different types of motivations can be highly prescriptive for laying successful go-to-market plans in the face of extreme uncertainty.
We are neither soothsayers nor oracles, but we do know how to leverage the power of psychology to help navigate a future that promises to be full of change and more disruption.
*No, this is not another conspiracy blog about how 5G technologies caused the Covid-19 outbreak. They did not.
Chris Neal, VP of CMB's Tech & Telecom Practice, has over 20 years of experience in high tech, online, consumer electronics, telecom and media insights, analytics, and consulting.