By Dr Alex Connock, Managing Director, Missile Digital Studios
I have been thinking of creating a TV format called ‘Beam Me Up'.
The idea will be to find a tiny village somewhere in rural or coastal UK, a ‘notspot’ far off the copper-wire grid of Britain’s telecoms infrastructure.
In that village, we will identify all the people who can make a product world class – if only they could tell the world about it. The cider business or gin distillery. The organic cheesemaker on the local farm. The wedding dress designer in the high street. The sustainable scallops-by-hand fisherman, or pesticide-free trout farm. The ghost story writer who wants to instantly serialise and digitally market her work. The creative, augmented reality specialised advertising agency - on Dartmoor.
Then we try an experiment. On a single day, we suddenly point the greatest bandwidth on the planet at that tiny village, and switch it on with every cutting edge, scaled-up tool of digital marketing, at an epic, Amazonian level. In so doing, we unleash a forceful, tidal wave of incoming internet traffic and create global demand for those high quality but hitherto all-but-invisible cottage industries from everywhere from Brazil to China.
We ask a simple question of the cohort of Britain’s entrepreneurs who are held back by bandwidth. If you got the chance to sell to the world, how would you meet the demand that came your way? Could you scale up production and distribution to match it? How woud you do it?
Think of the show as 'The Great British Bake Off', except there is a fleet of trucks outside the marquee waiting to take the best cakes around the planet in real time and huge volume. And not just cakes, but every other quintessentially British product as well. The take away from the show will be that unlimited demand will always create a production solution. So how do we create that demand and facilitate it?
The answer in 5G
The village in my TV show is just a metaphor for Britain itself, of course. Not just the Little Britain of London and the Home Counties, Manchester, Leeds – but the whole of Britain, from Fowey to Eskdale, via a thousand villages you’ve never even heard of, every one of which has talented, would-be entrepreneurs itching to get their products out to the world, and reluctant to up sticks for the overcrowded, natural resource-starved environment of London.
Generating that vast, export demand is exactly what 5G is for. And by extending major bandwidth to rural Britain, it will be capitalising on an industry in which the country as a whole already excels. We have powerful e-commerce businesses which are scaling globally – Asos, BooHoo.com, THG and many more. Here’s a great list of just the ones in the thriving North right now.
We are also part of a movement towards the integration of content at scale into e-commerce, including augmented reality. Video in e-commerce is likely to drive higher engagement and higher sales, as I discovered in a fascinating intellectual journey I took into the subject (my PhD was catchily titled: ‘Video Optimisation for e-commerce').
To succeed in that industry, to upload content in real-time to drive e-commerce users to awareness, consideration and purchase, is heavily dependent on bandwidth.
So how big is e-commerce and content?
E-Commerce is forecast to become a $3.3 trillion annual global industry in 2019 - part of a wider, rapidly evolving media landscape, where advertising spend is shifting away from TV (down 2.9% in the UK in 2017) and into pure digital investment (up 13.3% in the same period). Content marketing, of which e-commerce video is a subset, is a £1.3 billion UK industry, which grew 14% in the first half of 2017. And millennials (defined as people who came into adulthood after the year 2000, along with subsequent generations) are rapidly disengaging from broadcast TV channels. Advertising agency Group M predicted a 12% drop in linear TV viewing by 16-24 year olds, with 16-34 year olds 8% down, for 2018 alone. As viewers shift to digital video viewing, broadcast TV network advertising models are under threat, and both marketers and media owners are looking to other niche activities to re-capture lost viewers and sales. One such activity is e-commerce video.
Meanwhile the overwhelming US market leader in e-commerce, Amazon, announced in September that it is launching a fast-fashion TV show with inbuilt e-commerce links, a market development that could see a fusion of two industries in which Britain has strong capabilities: video content and e-commerce.
It all adds up to a market that’s growing fast, and which we need to be in.
What 5G offers
To match that opportunity, 5G is not just a facilitator of the trade, but rocket fuel for an entirely new slice of the industry to go global. Not just another mobile upgrade – it is a massive step forward, combining many advanced network and computing technologies. It offers the chance to create the platform on which the world’s digital economy will run generating new jobs, products and services. Earlier networks were mainly designed to allow people to talk, but 5G will fast become the internet platform for all things and people. 5G will be the biggest paradigm shift since phones went mobile.
Which brings me back to my naiscent TV show: Beam Me Up. If we can make that metaphorical beam of bandwidth land on every corner of Britain, we will drive entrepreneurship and trade from the very places currently starved of it. It’s the perfect, targeted investment strategy.
Dr Alex Connock is a specialist in the field of video e-commerrce. He is Associate Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Said Business School in the Future of Marketing project and Visiting professor at Salford, Sunderland and Manchester Metrpolitan universities. He runs e-commerce-specialised video production agency Missile Digital Studios. He is on the boards of Unicef UK and the Halle Orchestra.
 Group M upgrades ad market forecasts for 2017 and 2018, Emily Tan, Campaign, November 22, 2017.