Hiebing @SxSW Interactive 2015 - Frost Bank Tower, Austin Texas

Top Takeaways from SXSW Interactive 2015

March 23, 2015by Hiebing

The world is abuzz from all the latest in tech and innovations from this year’s SXSW Interactive conference. From wearables to virtual reality—as we advance in those spaces—the flurry of possibilities runs through a marketer’s brain. Where are we going next?

In our journey to the hometown of Hiebing South, we picked up a few gems and overall trends to watch out for in 2015 and beyond.

Storytelling still matters

And it’s evolving. Whether augmented reality plants the story into your world, virtual reality places you into the story, or it’s a passive experience using location-specific technology, the “story” needs to be relevant, relatable and engaging to the person you’re speaking to.

Content is the starting line, not the finish line. The amount of digital content will increase by 500 percent by 2020. As we wade deeper into content shock, its distribution at the right pace to the right places is just as important as the content itself. With 70 percent of people more likely to make a purchase on the basis of a friend’s updates, sharing is the bedrock of business and requires ignition. Emotional and intrinsic reasons (e.g. self-expression or helping others) ignite people to share. As marketers, we need to focus on trust and traffic—and the small percentage of your audience that is actually engaged.

Is the “big idea” dead? Absolutely not. However, don’t ignore the importance of ongoing content to woo existing customers as well. When creating and connecting with brand advocates, consistent microcontent causes an ever-present emotional connection. This drumbeat content wins hearts every bit as much as the big idea. Make it a priority in marketing planning.

Consumers crave customization

The industrial revolution led to mass production and uniformity. The digital age is now well into a shift back to personalization and customization. Technology and data are combining to make it much more feasible to implement incredibly personalized experiences. From physical environments like homes and office spaces to smartphones and fitness trackers to websites and blogs—every solution needs to consider using data and customization.

A tailored, more personal, immersive experience. Online and offline businesses continue to evolve with new technologies. More information is allowing for more customizable experiences between customers and brands. Mobile phones—the hardware that knows more about you than anyone—will continue to strengthen these relationships. And in the case of products: it’s not just personalized but oftentimes on-demand customization. A tailored experience is a more compelling experience.

It’s a thin line between customization and privacy. There are growing concerns about privacy and security surrounding the tracking of biometric data and health data via wearables. As people opt more and more for convenience over privacy, the level of intimate, detailed data collected on the user increases. As biometrics, fingerprints and iris scans continue to become popular over the use of passwords, marketers must be more mindful about the security of their customers’ personal data.

A note on wearables: We got the sense that wearables seem to be the next big thing, but nobody is confident that it is the next big thing—and the industry is waiting to see how the iWatch will do as an indicator. If and when wearable tech does take off, the data collected from the initial first movers will be a fantastic sample size for data collectors in the health care industry. For the time being, our biggest way in for a truly customized experience will be through data collected from mobile phones, simply because of market saturation.

All eyes on user experience

And we’re not just talking about the front page of your website. New technologies pave the way for rethinking how a consumer will use products and services—and brands will play trial and error to adapt their tech to what the consumer is looking for, and bring it to where consumers exist.

VR is not yet a reality. Whispers of a consumer-ready Oculus Rift by the end of 2015 persist, but people are still trying to figure out the emerging tech. Many agree that instead of a dedicated device like Oculus Rift, cell phones will be the medium for how most consumers experience VR. To do that, however, cell phone processors will have to make enormous progress, leapfrogging the capability of any top-market TV out today. And interacting with that virtual environment? Even further out. Once the price of VR becomes affordable for the consumer, expect advancements to increase exponentially.

Continuous improvement is real. Companies are continuously implementing new features and enhancements to their websites and apps to improve the user experience. So much so that they have built their platforms from the ground up with a focus on ease and speed of implementing new A/B Tests without impacting performance of delivering content to the end user. They are now able to quickly and efficiently experiment within their products and use real user data to innovate at an unprecedented pace.

We’re moving from a pull to a push web. The shift to a “push” versus a “pull” web experience continues. This “reversal of the web” is reinforced by the gathering of data to seed relevant content to the user, driving us further away from the “destination web.” The push web is personalized, actionable and is building relationships directly between content providers and customers.

The bottom line

There is an unimaginable amount of insight that flows throughout SXSW Interactive year over year—and we continue to root out the key elements that can impact our clients’ brands and, ultimately, the experience that their customers have with them.

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