5 things from SxSW that will impact customer experience
It’s no secret that customer experience is a competitive battlefield for brands and agencies alike. Never has there been a greater focus on the customer than there is today and never have customers been more informed and aware of their wants, needs and choices.
Recently I went to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. SxSW is a melting pot of discovery; an annual convergence of music, independent films, and emerging technologies to foster creative and professional growth globally. It is also where the brightest brands and agencies in the interactive space come together to share, show off and inspire with great ideas.
This year was my first SxSW, and as a content agency moving into the Virtual Reality space, so many of the sessions, panels and activations were relevant to us. What particularly stood out to me was the changing nature of customer experience and how attention to this is prime for brand success.
Here are five things I found from SxSW that will impact the relationship a customer has with a brand in the future.
1) The evolution of VR
Immersive storytelling and more specifically Virtual Reality was a hot topic this year, however its impact on customer experience has yet to come to full fruition. From 360 videos like Rapid VR’s Qantas x Hamilton Island video (which has amassed over 1 million hits indicating a lot about 360 video traction) to dining with 3D printed monsters, there were lots of examples to experience.
As a tool, although it’s not yet proving easy to scale to mass market, a brand can completely captivate an audience using VR. Other methods such as Splash VR apps and publishers such as NYT VR are also slowly gaining traction from a smartphone perspective.
In years to come if we are able to harness the data of ‘choose your own journey’ style narratives, or user-reaction based responses, it will be interesting to see if VR really adds value to a personalised brand experience.
2) How will AI affect CX?
Acronyms were big at SxSW and by no means was AI, Artificial Intelligence, left behind nor was its greatest question: what will life be like when we have machines and robots that automate and add value better than a human?
Not only will AI impact business, society and work in the not-so-distant future, but it will have a huge impact on the customer experience along with mitigating human error.
Cadillac hosted an interesting session where they talked through the campaign they built based purely on data insights which backfired, versus the campaign where the brand used data to inform and empathy to mould, which resonated far more successfully than the former. An interesting conversation around artificial intelligence and the role of empathy in any brand experience.
3) Interactive brand experiences
All brands want to create an ongoing relationship between customers and themselves, but some brands are giving a little more love to their interactions.
McDonalds have sponsored SxSW for a few years, but this was the first year they didn’t try and force feed hamburgers and coke with virtual reality. Instead they focused on creating a great user experience using the HTC Vive headset and paddles and Tiltbrush, meaning you could paint and create your own artwork in a modern environment. It was a long way from last year’s plastered product space.
It’s great to see brands fully harnessing new technology to add value, in this case to realise the creative potential of HTC Vive, creating your own artwork in real time.
4) People love puppies
One of the most talked about brand activations at SxSW was the Mophie x St. Bernard Rescue Foundation collaboration where attendees could tweet Mophie with their low phone battery status and Mophie would send a St. Bernard in a side-car to charge your mobile phone.
The simple takeaway: brands do well when puppies are involved, they do even better if they have puppies and a tangible brand experience benefit. I also really loved that Mophie brought in their not-for-profit collaboration, again showcasing that brands with purpose and authenticity really do win hearts.
5) Interesting ideas to watch
Naturally being my first time, I completely geeked out at SxSW. What3words.com had to be one of my favourite hidden treasures from the conference. They’ve managed to map the entire world into 3x3m squares and distil data down to three words to describe the area, a great tool to understand customers more accurately.
Although not super new, Amazon’s Dash Button is having large success in the US, with customers able to reorder their favourite products. Ideal from a brand loyalty perspective, and helpful from a customer basic need viewpoint. It was thrown around in multiple sessions as a simple and effective conversion to purchase.
Visa’s connected cars are interesting to watch; the embedded payment gateways used to top up parking meters, pay for petrol and take away food without leaving the car or handing over cash will be a gamechanger.
While SxSW gave me the opportunity to see the amazing innovations taking place, engage with likeminded people and look forward to implementing similar strategies with our own clients, I also know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. As a population, we are programmed to evolve, to ideate, to create change.
What the experience in itself has reminded me is that we are all purchasers, followers, subscribers of some kind and the customer experience is not mutually exclusive. The discoveries I made at SxSW made me move, feel, think and embrace and then create conversation around that with others that affected in the same way; because at the end of the day, we are all customers ourselves aren’t we?
Ultimately, as creators of experience if we can tap into what excites us, what engages us and what makes us feel, then surely we are half way there.