SXSW Interactive is mostly known as a hub of innovation in everything digital and marketing. The 2016 edition made no exception. Every year, for an entire week, Austin is where the future happens. It is the place to be if you want to stay at the forefront of the tech world we all live in.
Between all day conference sessions, an agenda packed with meetings, and the nightlife, you come out of the event full of new business ideas and insights. Now that we are safe back home, here are the 5 most important things we have learned from SXSW 2016.
Last year, when we had to compile the report for the 2015 conference, we started by pointing out that mobile marketing and customer experience management have become the two sides of the same business coin.
This year’s edition of the South By Southwest confirmed that marketing, technology and digital customer experience are now closer than ever. So close, in fact, that you cannot even imagine:
- A marketing strategy that does not think and act digital (and mobile) first;
- A marketing strategy that does not start with customers and their experience;
- A customer experience that is not influenced by smart and connected technology;
- Tech trends that are not influenced by the evolution of society and markets;
- Technological innovations that do not imply a deep change in how we live, buy and communicate.
Put all the pieces together and you will see a completely renewed customer journey; a complex map that moves across multiple touch points, and is not easily predictable. This suggests that the ability to engage and monetize customers in the moments of truth is the key to winning the competition for relevance.
As an example of this inextricable link, we can mention:
- The pervasiveness of the smartphone, that has become the first reference to access online information, and is changing our purchase behaviors;
- The spread of the wearable technology, that is forcing an evolution of the health experience, and is the primary force behind the self-tracking mania;
- The importance of social networks, that have created a wider concept of community and human relationships, mostly lived in mobility;
- The emergence of smart objects, that are able to communicate without human intervention, and to learn from habits and behaviors.
We have seen the breadcrumbs of this evolution in almost any keynote and panel at the Interactive week of the 2016 SXSW, with a schedule that could count on the likes of Barack Obama, Brian Solis, Brené Brown, Andy Puddicombe, Kevin Kelly, and Pedro Domingos.
EXPERIENCE IS THE NEW BRANDING
We want to start with Brian Solis, an analyst that we particularly appreciate for his ability to highlight the business disruption caused by the digital transformation. In his session, “The Future of Brand, Tech & Business is Experience”, Solis stressed out the idea that ‘experience’ is not a buzzword destined to fade, but the present (and future) of branding. It is the heart of all things disrupting our world.
The experience is the X factor in the evolution of marketing, but we need to define what is exactly this variable of the equation. What makes and experience “an experience”? It is not just mere theory: “Without defining experiences, brands will become victim to whatever people feel and share.”
MACHINE INTELLIGENCE IS THE FUTURE
Just like customer experience is now essential to deliver on the brand promise, the evolution of smart technology will soon set the boundaries of what we call business. Pedro Domingos, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington and the author of The Master Algorithm, talked about this topic in his keynote “The Secrets of Machine Learning Revealed”.
Artificial Intelligence is not (or, at least, should not be) so scary as it seems when it translates into “artificial smartness”. Objects learn from us, and they can teach a lot about ourselves, in return. We especially loved the description of the five tribes of machine learning - Symbolists, Connectionists, Evolutionaries, Bayesians, and Analogizers - tipping points for the rules to invent your own master algorithm.
TECHNOLOGY WILL SHAPE OUR LIFE
Smart machines took the center stage also in Kevin Kelly’s keynote, titled “12 Inevitable Tech Forces That Will Shape Our Future” and based on the new book that will soon hit the shelves. Today, technology evolves at a faster pace, and there is nothing we can do about it. We will face many revolutions, and the ability to embrace the force will decide whether we survive them or not.
Much of what will happen in the next decades is independent of where we live or what we do. The evolution will be driven by tech trends that are already in motion, even though the future is often difficult to believe. Cognifying, tracking and interacting are just three of these trends; they amplify each other, they push our lives in new directions … and they are inevitable.
HIDDEN FORCES SHAPE BEHAVIORS
Actually, “Invisible Influence and Winning at SXSW 2016” looked more like a metadiscourse than a keynote. Jonah Berger, a professor at The Wharton School, tried to teach us how we could take the best from SXSW Interactive, and how it could change our life. It has been, after all, one of the most intriguing sessions of the entire week.
Based in part on the acclaimed book Invisible Influence, the speech explored the hidden forces and influences that affect every single decision we make. Yes, even how we decide to live the SXSW experience. Berger, in fact, focused on how to make our days a time to remember, how to make better choices, and how to have more fulfilling interactions and improve other people’s life.
WE ALL NEED A HEALTHIER LIFE
If you think about it, any experience we live in our daily routine is partly made of technology and partly of emotions. Smart objects and revolutionary devices can improve our lives, but they cannot bring us happiness like some sort of black magic. This was the starting point for the keynote by Andy Puddicombe.
“Why Happiness Is Hard and How to Make It Easier”: the title and the main question at the same time. Pubbicombe, former Buddhist monk and co-founder of Headspace, led us to an exploration of ourselves, blending science, technology, and mindfulness on a path to discover what it means to be happy and how we can tap into our creative potential. To reach a healthier life.
If you want to know more about what has happened at SXSW Interactive 2016, here are few articles that you should read:
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