Four Tech Lessons From Our Week at SXSW Interactive

Ahhhh. Springtime in Austin. It’s the perfect time for beer, barbecue, and of course, SXSW.

Ready for loads of fun and very little sleep, we took the 200-mile road trip to experience “the experience” for ourselves. From the weird (headphone hair) to the wonderful (VR experiences), we made it through as much as we could over the course of the five-day interactive portion.

We heard a lot. We saw a lot. We experienced a lot. And here are a few things we learned from our trip there:

1) Compelling content and experiences will help brands make the most of virtual reality (VR).

With more and more companies giving the average consumer access to VR (see: Samsung, Google, Sony, Microsoft), VR is poised to go from new-stream to mainstream. So what’s holding it back? Content.

Games certainly have their place in VR. Sony is going all in on that. But full, 360-degree video and more captivating, personal storytelling will be the vehicles that move VR towards creating memorable experiences consumers crave again and again. With user-generated VR content sure to come, brands and studios have the chance to grab the lion’s share of VR eyeballs now through early adoption…only if the content is good. It’s an uncharted channel that can take experiential marketing to new heights. Just ask Lufthansa.

2) The Internet of Things (IoT) can be scary, rewarding and liberating all at the same time.

Devices know where you are, what you’re doing, what you need to do and where you need to go, among other things. Whether you’re connected through your phone, watch, health tracker, car, fridge, thermostat or light bulb, you are connected. Sacrificing privacy for the sake of convenience and connectivity is nothing new, but the prevailing questions we heard at SXSW were: “Who owns all that data? And how is it used?”

If you’re an app like Kiip, which was featured at SXSW, you take that data to create rewards based on moments. So if you’re searching for a recipe on your connected fridge or recording your personal best on your fitness tracker, you can earn rewards relevant to your activity, making the data work for the consumer, your brand and whatever rewards vehicle you use. Which brings us to our next insight…

3) All of our futures will be personalized.

Burger King used to tout the slogan “Have It Your Way.” (It’s still a registered trademark and appears on their website). But it’s not their main catchphrase anymore because “having it your way” is now the way of the world. And it’s only going to become more personalized as brands offer consumers more and more opportunities to create our own versions of and customize, well…just about anything. Whether it’s shoes, cars, burgers, coffee, electronic devices or accessories, you can pretty much buy what you want the way you want it. As 3D printing becomes more affordable, creating custom goods will become more mainstream. Adidas calls it Futurecraft. Other companies will surely follow suit. Again, it goes back to “the experience” associated with a product, not just the product itself. Are you creating something that tells your consumer “I know who you are?” Because that’s what they want. They want a relationship, not just a product.

4) The future will also be wearable and embedded for your health.

Wearables are all around: Samsung Gear. Apple Watch. Fitbit. Moto 360. And those are just the big ones. But what we’ve come to think of as a “traditional” wearable is just the beginning. Taking them off your wrist and putting them near, on, or even in your body is the next step for tracking technology.

Wearables printed into clothing. Trackers inserted into shoes. Health monitors and medical device stickers applied to your body. There is a wide range of embedded tech making its way to the forefront. At one SXSW panel, Drew Schiller, CTO and co-founder of Validic, and Allison Swelin, Wellness Sales and Marketing Manager at Garmin, both said they see the advancements in wearable and embedded tech as a “powder keg for a health revolution” leading to a higher adoption rate of data tracking for overall health and wellness. Under Armour is betting big on this with its HealthBox.

As tech marketers, SXSW is literally a playground for us. It’s also a great (but very crowded) classroom. It begs us to ask you the questions, “Do you know what’s next in your marketing plan? How are you incorporating emerging tech? And are you crafting content and goods that really move your target consumer to invest in your brand?”

A personalized future extends into retail as well. Learn how by reading Mobile Engagement at Retail: The Four Rules of the “Remind Zone.”