Thought Leadership


Mike Mandarino
Account Manager

March 3, 2020

The year was 2003 and the likes of 50 Cent and Norah Jones were topping the charts and being played on Sony Walkmans everywhere. MP3 players were still niche products that had not yet reached the majority of consumers. 15-year-old me could typically be found skateboarding through the suburbs in a long sleeve shirt underneath a short sleeve shirt and a hefty ball-bearing necklace so I could signal to others I was “different” and non-conforming. Whenever I had enough money saved from doing chores, there was no place on Earth I’d rather be than Tower Records. A relic from the past, this magical place of music was where I, and many others, went browsing for new CDs.
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To bring a CD home, you might have first chosen a genre, searched through artists alphabetically, and perhaps walked over to a listening station where you could sample small clips of each song. There wasn’t much else to influence your purchase, other than a recommendation from a friend, a hit song on the radio, or your own intuition from judging the album art. Unless you walked in knowing exactly what you were looking for, it was a time-consuming process! Because I no longer have the same kind of time I once had, I am immensely grateful the internet came along and vastly eased how consumers trial and find music. With the rise of digital streaming platforms, blog posts and social media, I can continue to discover music with less effort.

Similar to how finding music has changed, shopping for consumer packaged goods has also been impacted by the digital age. Whether you’re shopping for groceries online through sites like Peapod or Instacart, reading product reviews online, or using your phone to scan on-pack QR codes for more information, technology has changed and shaped current trends in retail. It’s about to change even more with the launch of 5G planned for this year. More than just a newer version of 4G, 5G is expected to become a game changer across a broad range of industries. 

Enabling a Broad Set of Industries
In 2035, when 5G’s full economic benefit should be realized across the globe, a broad range of industries, from retail to education, transportation to entertainment, and everything in between- could produce up to $13.2 trillion worth of goods and services enabled by 5G mobile technology.
Not only will 5G enhance mobile broadband with faster speeds, it will also improve emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR). While industries such as healthcare and education have already begun AR initiatives, the launch of 5G will enable more brands across a broader spectrum of categories to leverage AR and engage with consumers in a fresh way. I can’t help to wonder how this technology could have affected my Tower Records experience when I was growing up. In theory, I might have been able to go to the store, pick up a CD, and use my phone to whisk me away to a live concert. With AR, I could have activated and fully immersed myself into a multi-sensory experience of listening to live music. While this could lead to a quicker purchase, it could have also presented opportunities to be directed to a band’s website where I could purchase additional albums, merchandise and concert tickets that weren’t physically available in the store. I’m not a proponent of living life through the lens of your phone, but I do think technology can improve shopping experiences in positive ways.

With the food and beverage industry launching new products each year, consumers are faced with the challenge of navigating a busy shelf-set with unrecognizable and unfamiliar products. Moreover, with consumers paying closer attention to costs more than ever before, they are becoming less brand loyal in an effort to keep more money in their pockets. The confluence of these factors creates a prime opportunity for new products to resonate with new consumers. I would argue that the music industry is positioned in a similar fashion with bands and artists with varying popularity and networks are all competing for limited attention and dollars just waiting to be discovered.

It’s clear that technology has become a major tool for brands to expand their engagement with consumers. For example, Spotify annually releases a Wrapped feature, which is a personalized snapshot of the music a user listened to over a year. More specifically, Wrapped provides precise information on the artists, genres and even the duration of songs users had listened to along with other information. In 2019, I spent 47,083 minutes on Spotify listening to rock, indie, emo, and metalcore from 19 different countries. Most surprising to me, I discovered 381 new artists: A feat that might have been impossible to quantify, or achieve, back in 2003. A recent study by streaming site Deezer suggests that most consumers stop discovering music around the age of 30. However, with streaming technologies, we have seen how much easier it is to discover new music regardless of age and I believe this will also extend into exploring new and engaging brands—especially with 5G.

When it comes to 5G, experts believe we won’t realize the full economic benefit until 2035. Moreover, there have been recent criticisms involving the potential risks of cybercrime and hacking with 5G. As the benefits and risks begin to play out from now until 2035, I will be paying close attention to how it impacts and improves how I experience music, brands and the world around me.


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