After experiencing some of the most exhausting days in the life of a “mobile” analyst, I am back from Barcelona. Here are my key takeaways from the 2016 event.

MWC 2016's "Mobile Is Everything" theme summarizes two ideas: the disruptive power of ubiquitous mobile devices and their ability to connect things and objects in our surrounding environment. This year, innovation and key announcements did not so much come from new flagship smartphone manufacturers but instead focused on solutions that enable mobile devices to activate adjacent technologies — like VR, 360-degree cameras, 5G, and the IoT — to build the next generation of connected experiences. Let's cut through the hype to look at what the headlines really mean for B2C marketers:

  • VR is really still hype. Samsung massively surfed on the VR "wow" effect and heavily promoted its Gear VR headset while Facebook's CEO insisted that VR is the next-generation platfrom and will shape the future of social. After the distribution of five million of Google's Cardboard VR Viewers since June 2014, the buzz will continue with Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR (to be launched mid-March at the Game Developer Conference), creating awareness for digitally immersive experiences. But reach will be extremely limited, as the technology will only attract a niche set of users — especially gamers — in the first two years. However, marketers at retail, automotive, travel, or luxury real-estate companies with a digital innovation agenda should keep an eye for signs of VR adoption beyond the "techno-few."
  • Use mobile to unlock IoT consumer experiences. IoT remains first and foremost a B2B and industrial play. However, B2C marketers can combine mobile and IoT to activate new brand experiences.
  • Ignore the 5G telecom-centric technology vendor pitch. 5G will have no consumer impact whatsoever before the end of the decade. The history of 3G and 4G roll-outs tells us that the emergence of a new network infrastructure will significantly change consumers' lives but will only reach critical mass several years after the first commercial pilots.

MWC's real value for B2C marketers is in hearing about the capabilities of mobile marketing and ad-tech vendors, viewing demonstrations, keeping an eye on the cutting edge of mobile marketing innovation, taking in the key themes that will shape mobile technology development. This is what I heard at MWC that's relevant for marketing leaders:

  • Marketing tech vendors speed up mobile innovation. For example, Adobe released a new product in the Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe Experience Manager Mobile (AEM Mobile), to simplify application life-cycle management. Adobe also added a new deep-linking capability to its mobile core services. We have also heard about significant demand for web push notifications, enabling marketers to engage in real-time via the mobile web but also on laptops.
  • Contextual data and mobile-to-offline attribution was a hot topic."Where you go is who you are," said Daniel Rosen, global director of advertising at Telefonica, speaking at an MMS satellite event. Telecom operators have a gold mine of first-party data information about consumers' location and behaviors. Beyond telcos and Internet giants, location intelligent platforms like BlisMedia, Factual, Near, or PlaceIQ can help. Various players such as AdTheorent or xAd announced new solutions to measure the impact of digital and mobile on offline sales. The use case for marketers is not just to target consumers via an immediate channel but also to use location to inform a user's profile over time. Frequency of visits and other location information is a gold mine of intent data from which marketers can infer loyalty or probable next actions.
  • Mobile ad experience was far from a consensual topic. While counterintuitive, marketers should think of mobile ad-blocking as an opportunity. Consumers have higher expectations of mobile and are frustrated with experiences that do not answer their contextual needs or are not mobile-optimized. Mobile-ad blocking uptake and the increasing readiness to pay only for what will really be viewed means that consumers have more control over their brand exposure than ever. Let's also step back: Ad-blocking is nothing new — it is just more measurable on the mobile channel.

To know more, Forrester clients can download our full report “Mobile World Congress 2016 — A Marketer's Lens To See Beyond the Hype” here.