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SXSW Rewind: The Prevalence of Utility-Based Marketing

Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting Elizabeth Canon, Founder and President of the FC Tech Group, in our office to give the group’s annual SXSW Rewind presentation. Every year, her awesome team attends SXSW to distill the most important information from its sessions and activations into a succinct overview of the event. With a focus specifically on retail, fashion, and beauty, this recap session provided relevant insights into how these industries are evolving technologically and impacting the future of e-commerce, marketing, and advertising in the digital age.

We thought it might be helpful to give an overview of our own for the latest and greatest takeaways from the SXSW Rewind presentation. Consider this a recap of a recap.

SXSW, which is now in its 30th year, has grown from what was once about 150 registrants to close to 72,000 registrants and artists in attendance. While the event has been known to have breakout stars in the past (think, Meerkat or Twitter) this year was focused more on how technology can impact our experiences collectively. To that end, here are three themes that stood out during our SXSW Rewind.

Issues Over Apps

One of the most popular sessions, of course, was Barack Obama’s keynote at the start of the event. Obama kicked off SXSW by discussing how technology and innovation can impact domestic politics as well as the future of humanity. He highlighted the importance of privacy, community and sustainability as cornerstones of the tech sector’s future focus.

A SXSW survey highlighted that 61% of respondents have more faith in technology-based solutions than policy measure to combat society’s problems. Obama suggested that the tech sector start taking advantage of this fact and mobilize to enact change.

Humanizing Technology

Today’s technological advancements are focused on improving users’ lives. At SXSW Rewind, the retail industry was described as a “warfront,” which is not surprising when the U.S. is the most over-retailed country in the world.

For every man, woman & child in the U.S. there is 46 sq ft. of retail space, making it difficult for brand-voice to cut through the noise and reach its audiences.

Here are some other notable stats on the changing retail dynamic:

  • People use their phones on average 150 times a day
  • There is a 40% increase in a customer’s cart when they use multiple touch-points before purchase
  • Location matters: 75% of retail spending happens within 15 miles of a consumer’s home

Customers are now dictating the conversation that brands should be having, and defining how they want to and need to be reached by marketers. Creating a real interaction to carry on a brand’s story or connect on an individual level with an audience is the key to pushing a customer to purchase. User-generated content (UGC) including images, videos, reviews, and more has become a great way for companies to not only understand how customers use and enjoy their product, but also acts as an avenue through which they can reach their biggest fans.

We’ve featured NYX Cosmetics before as a company that is not only using user-generated images on their website to drive conversions and sales, but has taken UGC one step further and implemented it in-store. By bringing images of their fans in-store, they are “meeting” customers in a meaningful way with real-life content that resonates with the buyer. Over time, personalization is going to become the norm.

To succeed in the future of retail, the words “online” and “offline” in marketing need to become obsolete as it is becoming more about creating one holistic experience in a customer’s journey. Get to know your consumer emotionally, reach them with content that is relevant, meet them in a local space, and this will help set-up brands for success as the retail industry evolves.

Collaboration to Improve Our World

Collaboration at this year’s SXSW came in the form of how brands are approaching sustainability. According to The Fair Fashion Center, the $2.5T fashion industry has the 2nd highest use of water than other industries and contributes to 10% of the world’s carbon footprint. With one out of six people working in a fashion-related job, in an industry with the 2nd highest rate of pollution, it is makes sense that this trade would want to start minimizing its negative impact on our planet.

More and more, sustainable practices across the e-commerce industry are not simply a “nice to have” but instead a criterion in a successful business model. Through small changes and collaboration between businesses, nonprofits, and even consumers, brands are able to positively impact environmental change in our world.

We have written before about some of our favorite brands who have built their authenticity through conscious commerce, but there were many more suggestions and examples of how e-commerce companies can contribute to decreasing their eco-footprints and also improve their bottom-line.

In a new men’s dress shirt there are 18 pieces of “trash” that consumers can throw away (i.e. disposable lapel pins, plastic collar holders, etc.), by reducing this trash to even 15 pieces, it not only saves our landfills but saves businesses millions of dollars a year in costs.

J.C. Penney is a company who has taken advantage of small contributions having big returns through engaging consumers to donate to their environmental initiatives. They have already collected $51 million from donations under $1 and are starting a new campaign this summer called NoCo2, where there will be a green button on their cart checkout that reads “Please offset my carbon footprint,” and then rounds the cart total up to the dollar for a small donation.

Technology FTW

SXSW 2016 was about how we can use modern and emerging technology to positively impact the world around us. Examples already abound displaying companies putting tech to good use, including:

  • Zara took the first step towards making people feel more comfortable in their skin with gender neutral clothing
  • Anthony Bourdain and Rachel Ray used their brands to tell stories about enacting policy to change our current food industry
  • Salesforce partnered with to support providing poverty-stricken people around the world access to training and digital jobs

These are just some examples that exemplify where the future of media and marketing is headed, using collaboration to elevate our greatest ideas. Check out the full SXSW Rewind presentation, courtesy of FC Tech Group, below: