SXSW Interactive: What to expect this year

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(Courtesy Jeremy Keith via Flickr.)
(Courtesy Jeremy Keith via Flickr.)

Mindshare partners look ahead to the hottest trends in Austin

If you were intrigued by the technology from the Consumer Electronics Show or Mobile World Congress, you’re in luck: SXSW 2015 promises to further accelerate those emerging trends, particularly the latest in wearables, sensory experiences, big data and more. The unique thing about SXSWi is its tendency to bring in both emerging and established companies to demonstrate how they overlay content with these tech trends – in doing so, they illustrate how brands are using technology to best engage an audience among an ever-changing digital landscape.

Here’s where we expect to see a lot of content and conversation this year:

Digital data usage. There’s a fine line between using data wisely and creeping your customers out. One of this year’s themes will be the "schizophrenia" inherent in the relationship between consumers and big data: wanting companies to use their data to help them navigate and provide a personalized experience, while also keeping just enough distance to make them feel safe. How can brands/companies leverage digital data without turning off their core audience?

The evolution of shopping and e-commerce. The retail industry has a lot of catching up to do. A number of sessions will examine the new generation of retail innovators that have entered the picture, and how they’re completely changing the way consumers think about shopping. Companies like Birchbox, Rent the Runway and more are actually changing the purchase journey itself by gamifying shopping; enabling virtual experiences; and creating new, unique business models.  

The impact of mobile technology. Inevitably, discussions of e-commerce also turn to mobile — how it’s changing purchase behavior and how retailers are using it to capture consumers’ attention. The power of mobile payments, location services and beacon technology has enabled consumers to get/purchase products more quickly, and enabled brands to provide customized shopping experiences. Retail aside, there’ll also be plenty of continued conversation around the impact of mobile on experiential marketing — how brands can best use data and tailored suggestions to enhance the consumer experience.

The realization of adaptive marketing: It’s not just about being reactive to pop culture events, news stories and competitors’ marketing efforts. The future as we know it involves staying ahead of the curve – marketing that’s both less reactive and more proactive. What does it mean to be "on" at all times? How do brands communicate with their consumers on a much more regular and fluid basis? It’s a new emerging norm, and attendees and speakers alike will discuss the difficulties of entering into consumer conversations, and the brand’s role within them.

Wearables: how to live up to the hype. Big-name brands are putting their stake in the wearable technology space — they’re racing to showcase how the technology can be made personal, seamless, and convenient. Expect a number of discussions on how to design for this space, and a look at some of the recent device-and-fashion partnerships. However, real adoption of wearables is still blossoming — as is the actual impact of tying together the technology with a brand’s essence. Expect a lot of conversations on the hits, misses, and best practices of how to make wearables live up to their infinite possibilities for consumers and brands.

New sensory experiences. Reality vs perception: marketers have always realized that sight, sound and motion are essential in bringing a brand message to life, but with continuous emerging technology, new sensory experiences are elevating marketing to a whole other level. From edible print ads to holograms, the fusion of physical and digital is pushing the boundaries and creating new, unique ways to engage consumers.  How do we create authentic experiences that delight all of the senses? We’re hoping to see new technology that will be the talk of the industry.

Casey Steinberg is partner/director, strategic planning, and Yvonne Williams is partner/associate director, digital investment, with Mindshare.

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