Almost every new trend develops in the same way. First of all, a very small group of people use it. That group subsequently grows a little larger, these being the 'early adopters'. The number of users then continues to grow steadily, until the 'tipping point' is reached, which is when the trend starts spreading out like an oil slick. Finally, the very last people join in as well. By this time, the first group has long moved on to something new.
Old or new?
For the average consumer, an innovation is something new, but it has often been in development for years. For those who think for instance that Spotify is new – that's far from the case. The company has existed since 2006. This is almost inevitable, as not every new technology is immediately ready for millions of users. The prerequisites for a new trend like this have to be just right. Take Netflix, for instance. First of all, there has to be a demand for such an app. Users also need a good network to be able to enjoy series and movies optimally, as well as substantial bandwidth.
VodafoneZiggo has a future role to play in respect of many of the preconditions needed for a new technological development to succeed. The network must be in order, and a stable WiFi connection is also necessary. This is why it is very important to follow – and where possible predict – those trends. We’re no fortune tellers, of course, but our knowledge and extensive network mean we can already achieve a great deal. We have our tentacles everywhere to stay up to date. This includes the content market – with companies such as Netflix – and device suppliers like Apple. And we are well aware ourselves, of course, of our network's new possibilities.
Experience plays a role too. For example, we know from experience how the sales curve for phones changed when we moved from 3G to 4G, just as it did from 1G to 2G and from 2G to 3G. This means we know pretty accurately how the move from 4G to 5G will go. We are now close to the tipping point. And in about three years' time, the last group of people will buy a phone with 5G. We also know the average lifespan of a phone pretty accurately: about 2.7 years.
It is incredibly valuable for us to have insight into trends. It ensures that new developments don’t come as a surprise to us. I sometimes compare us to tornado chasers. They know from experience exactly what a tornado does, which is how they can get close to it. They also collect all the information about the tornado so that they can predict the path it will take. That's what we as a company try to do too. We know what’s coming, so we can create the right preconditions at the right time, so that customers can follow the trend.
A guiding role
Although new developments don't happen overnight, it can seem like that to a consumer. It is our job to take that consumer with us on the journey step by step and to explain how such a new product works and what it can do. We act as our customers' guide, so to speak. We need to give our customers products that are useful to them. This is why we are working hard on launching a talking remote control. The first consumers are using it now and are extremely enthusiastic. Over the past few years, we have worked hard to create just the right conditions so this product is easy to use for the customer now.
Watch out for the gaming industry
By the way, we don't always have this valuable technological advantage. New software, for example, is difficult to predict. With a 5G phone, we know that it will take about three years before 'the masses' have such a device. However, for software such as WhatsApp or Tikkie, this often goes much quicker. These apps can have already reached half of all users within six months. Concrete technological developments are easier to follow. This is why I expect the gaming industry to take great leaps forward in the coming years. It’s a gigantic industry, and one in which the Netherlands is a considerable trendsetter by the way. Virtual reality will create an explosion of possibilities. This is why we are already busy 'behind the scenes' making these innovations possible.
Innovator vs late majority
We are always busy at the 'back' of our network to enable those innovations, such as the roll-out of our gigabit network. A lot of people say they don't need these speeds at all, but the 'tornado' is coming and the great demand for those gigabit speeds will happen. Finally, I would like to recommend a book on this subject, namely "Crossing The Chasm" by writer Geoffrey A. Moore.
Jan Zwang is Senior Manager Market & Customer Insights. He and his team provide VodafoneZiggo with valuable information about the customer's needs, wishes, opinions and behaviour and about all the opportunities that ensue from this.