As we wrap up SXSW 2023, we are celebrating another highly successful year for the event. SXSW is all things digital, consumers, engagement, technology, movies and music. What I really love about SXSW is the diversity. People come together from dozens of countries and thousands of companies across all sectors of the global economy. This community is about creativity, engagement, involvement, and impact.
A few trends and sessions that really caught my attention:
- Disney – Speaking for the first time, Disney spoke about immersive experiences, how to provoke responses from audiences and engagement with characters. Disney has always been at the forefront of audience engagement—creating new technologies for rides, characters, animation, and advertising—and they continue to innovate around the application of technology on consumer engagement. This is an entirely data-driven problem. To create that engaging experience you must train large language models across a large spectrum of languages, dialects, regional tones, and subtle expressions. Seeing companies come to SXSW for the first time is always exciting, especially those that have been a leader in engagement and experiences for so long.
- Consumer Engagement – Every brand regardless of their strategy for retail locations, e-commerce, or marketplace is hyper-focused on engagement. They focus huge resources on bringing people to their application, keeping them engaged, and maximizing that time to sell products and ads. This is accelerating as consumers are becoming less committed to single apps and more willing to move between brands. Many best practices were shared about how to drive initial downloads, engage users in a community and conversation, and turn that into sales on the platform.
- Gamification (the good) – The adoption of gamification techniques within health and wellness industries continues to accelerate. Healthcare providers across the industry are testing and rolling out programs to earn points for healthy activities and building communities around friends for encouragement and competition. This is a positive application of gamification, encouraging people to take small steps that make a noticeable difference in their long-term health. I am very positive about the potential here for lifestyle changes, personal health and wellness, and engagement.
- Gamification (the bad) – There is also a growing trend around gamification for more risky activities including investing and personal financial management. There are a variety of investment platforms, coupled with social media tools that create a sense of urgency around investments and share information on riskier investments than consumers might normally explore. This trend I am negative about. People’s financial well-being is about their own personal comfort and goals with market conditions, their working plans, and family needs. This is an area people should be watchful about and ensure that community-sourced information is balanced by conversations with licensed professionals.
- US Electric Vehicle (EV) sales hit 6% in 2022 – The 5% threshold is considered a milestone for EV adoption. Many will refer to it as a “birds of a feather milestone”; meaning that enough people have purchased EVs and drive them regularly that the remainder of the potential buyer base will see EVs operating daily as part of their regular activities. This awareness drives faster adoption and acceptance seeing how EVs work for those in your social circle. EV adoption is an exciting shift in consumer behavior. Many companies spoke about growing scale of charging networks, unified charging experience across brands, and smarter integration with electric grids.
- Teams Matter more than Technology Specialties – Multiple forums were discussing how to structure and coach high-performing teams. These are the ones that build digital solutions that are not just adopted, but loved by consumers. There are many approaches but the dominant theme was that high-performing teams are groups that have worked together, developed a routine and have a complimentary balance of skills and experience. Most importantly, organizations that keep teams intact and move them between projects as a group see much more value generated over organizations that move individuals, triggering teams to regroup and reform regularly.
See you all next year at SXSW 2024!
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