Monday 23 April 2018

Trends from SXSWi in Austin, Texas

SXSWi, the world’s largest conference for interactive and emerging technology, has just wrapped up in Austin, Texas. The event program is a veritable smorgasbord of sessions including keynotes from the people behind some of the world’s best-known interactive brands, panel sessions covering every imaginable topic (the future of porn anyone?), and trade stands pedalling every possible new technology. SXSWi is no small undertaking, made all the more daunting by the fact it is compulsory for Australians to do it jetlagged, hungover (there is typically up to 20 parties on any given night) and with access only to bad American filtered coffee.

Amidst the growing contingent of Australian attendees, Matthew Gain and Alex Lefley added their names. Below are eight trends they took away from the show.

Social data to improve retail experiences – Data was the buzz word of the whole conference, but some of the most interesting applications were in the retail space. One session outlined a future where discounts, shop window displays and staff suggestions could all be customised based on the data available on your mobile phone. Via near field communication, your smart phone connected to a Facebook account and a payment platform such as PayPal could display a customised retail experience just for you. The potential is staff making suggestions based on your past purchases and digital tags that displayed a unique RRP based on how good a customer you are. A scenario was even given where music within the store could be tailored to the age and male/female mix of those within the retail at space at any given time.

Nibble size content – Forget 140 characters, that is way too #longread for the realities of 2013. New social platforms such as Vine that creates 6 second videos broadcast via Twitter were being captured and shared in every session I attended. Snapchat was another hot topic. The platform delivers images and captions between friends, but the hook is the messages have a shelf life before being deleted – maximum 10 seconds. Snapchat’s adoption amongst the teen audience and potential use whilst sexting was a cause for much discussion in many of the panel sessions.

The digitisation of traditionally non-digital things – Google Glass was the device everybody was hankering to get their hands on. Whilst there were no public announcements by Google at the event, Google Glass was mentioned in just about every session. Combined with the release of The Talking Shoe video, demonstrations of a beer vending machine that makes new beer recommendations based on your previous purchase history and talk of contact lenses that would allow others to see exactly what you are seeing, this is sure to be an exciting trend to keep watching.

Socialisation of media content and advertising – Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti delivered a keynote on the final day of the conference that gave an insight into the future of media and how his team creates content designed to be shared virally via social networks. Poretti outlined his content approach that combined serious content (Obama Leaves Door Open On Keystone Pipeline) with highly viral content (The 30 Happiest Facts Of All Time) designed to find its way to readers via social media sharing. He described Buzzfeed’s approach to editorial like a visit to your local café. Sure you turned up with your favourite paper under your arm and did indeed read the articles within, but you also spent time patting the dog, flirting with the pretty girl in the short skirt and gossiping with your friends. It is the combined experience that made reading the paper at your local café interesting and that is what Buzzfeed attempts to capture online. He also outlined his approach to social advertising showcasing innovative advertising examples such as this one from GE that derived most of its viewership by people sharing it in social media.

Augmented reality and the death of Privacy – Amidst all the hype of Google Glass and the potential it delivered for remembering names and interactions and seeing which party goer had the most Klout were also discussions about the future of privacy. The outcome almost always was the statement, “privacy is dead”. At least that is the acceptance amongst the set at SXSWi. I wonder how the rest of society will adapt?

The rise of 3D printing – Whilst not a new development the reducing price for a basic 3D printer (around $1,300) made this a hot trend at the conference.  At this very moment in time kids are developing, printing and selling their own plastic creations online, prosthetic limbs are being printed and applied in combat zones and even edible meat is being printed. 3D printing is sure to redefine the future of manufacturing.

Big data delivering real business goals – Combine the fact an android smart phone has 67 (60 for iOS) sensors built in with modern day prolific sharing on social media and you have a veritable feast of data that insights can be derived from.  Best case examples of big data activation include Starbucks identifying potential business leaders by monitoring the quickness of progression between barista and store manager shared via Facebook and Starbucks, or pharma companies being able to better tailor membership fees based on exercise profiles shared by Nike FuelBand. Big data is already happening – what are you sharing that you aren’t even aware of?

I can haz control  – the queue to get a glimpse of the real life Grumpy Cat was almost as long as the queue to hear Al Gore’s keynote presentation. Cats are a trend that ain’t going away quickly.


You may have read about, or if you attended have some different trends from SXSW. If you leave a comment below we will be sure to include them.