Digital Innovation at SXSW 2019: AI and FOMO Emerge as Top Themes

By 4 Minute Read

Digital Innovation at SXSW this year centered on AI and FOMO as leading topics, setting the stage for improved engagement experiences.

Another South by Southwest, SXSW or as some call it, “South by,” (which I was told by a local is a phrase used only by out-of-towners) is in the books. SXSW has connected the world of music, tech, and film for 32 years, providing insights into the future of technology, marketing and launching well-known now giants like Twitter and musical geniuses like Amy Winehouse.

In addition to being one big surreal party where someone could find themselves brushing shoulders with the likes of Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, the very controversial Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) or actress and business owner, Gwyneth Paltrow, some noticeable trends emerged that seem to march to the beat of the recurring themes in our daily news feeds.

ServisBOT was proud to be represented under the Enterprise Ireland-Irish Innovation umbrella and we spent countless hours talking to a diverse crowd of enthusiastic conference-goers on the expo floor about their conference impressions, highlights and delights (as well as demoing how we transform digital experiences using conversational chatbots, of course).

Below are three key themes I picked up on during my journey across sessions, discussions on the expo floor, networking and tech showcases spread across downtown Austin.

  • AI is pervasive – it’s everywhere, but the conversation has changed from broad discussions to very specific use cases where AI is being inserted into real-world applications using chatbots across insurance, banking AI and healthcare for employee productivity, customer convenience, driving real value and ROI.
  • AR, VR and Drones ruled the show floor and tech houses that lined the streets around the convention center, but XR or Cross Reality, blending the visual language of the digital world with the physical world, transforming the human experience and impacting the future of human expression, was truly mind-blowing and all abuzz at the show.
  • The SXSW experience is overwhelming. The overall attendee sentiment seemed to resonate with a pretty big fear of missing out (FOMO). With hundreds of scheduled sessions happening at hotels all over the city, unofficial sessions popping up on an impromptu basis, dozens of hot technology experiences being showcased in pop-up houses around the convention center (often requiring hours of waiting in line), not to mention the endless options for mixers, evening events, concerts and the overwhelming number of cool bars and restaurants, no one really knew where to turn. 

SXSW and the Digital Innovation

Let’s dive a bit deeper into that last trend above regarding the overwhelming nature of this 40,000-person international show and ponder the opportunities SXSW had to provide a 360-degree delightful digital journey for their attendees.

One very common complaint we heard at our stand was how difficult the website and mobile app were to navigate. As a mecca for launching digital innovation, one would expect an absolutely stellar digital engagement experience — from intuitive and easy to use websites and mobile apps across all SXSW properties and communities, to proactive, personalized alerts for events and activities of interest, based on the attendees’ prior activity on SXSW’s digital properties.

Not to mention, how cool would it be to offer self-service ways for people to obtain directions to session and event locations, know if a session is full before they arrive or if their badge type will get them in, get answers to FAQs, inquire about details on a given event, purchase special event tickets and connect, schedule meetings and exchange business cards with new contacts.

Take it a step further and think about the opportunities that SXSW has to digitally up-sell their guests on special events as well as attractions in the city of Austin by offering the option to add the music festival to their interactive conference tickets, providing convenient ways of booking taxis, restaurants, and tickets to Austin attractions, all within the context of the SXSW brand experience.

Watch this video that contains actual footage of a custom SXSW chatbot demo we built to sit on top of the SXSW website.

The bot’s mission is to be a virtual concierge that helps conference-goers navigate the show site and events, answer questions, but also proactively alert the users to conveniences like booking an Uber or dinner reservation. Our bot hovers the SXSW site but could have just as easily been put in a mobile app or in Facebook Messenger, for instance. This video just touches on the edge of what a conversational bot could have done to optimize an attendee experience.

With dozens of years of history, SXSW holds a treasure trove of data on attendees, and if a repeat attendee, knows every place their badge was scanned at last year’s show (music, tech, film or special event).

SXSW holds the keys to personalizing a custom experience for each and every attendee in a way some businesses can only dream of.

But you may be wondering, how can conversational AI and chatbot innovation help my business? It’s cool but what’s the point?

  • Does conversational engagement help me compete more effectively in my marketplace?
  • Are AI and chatbots mature enough to facilitate smart conversations with my audience and be a positive reflection of my brand?
  • Will chatbots save me time and money? How do I understand the ROI of a bot?
  • Will it provide a significantly more efficient, useful, convenient or delightful experience for my customers or employees?
  • Does this require a huge investment of time and resources?

The best way to answer these questions is for us to share stories of how our customers got chatbots up and running in their businesses within weeks, connected these bots to their business systems and are seeing first-hand how chatbots and AI can transform experience, as evidenced by their customer satisfaction scores, increased sales and loyalty.

What most businesses find so fantastic – is not only the ability to use conversational bots to provide inbound support for customers seeking help, but also contribute to revenue and loyalty-building opportunities through the use of outbound bot campaigns for loyalty, winbacks, up-sells and renewals.

Creating exceptional moments of engagement and satisfying experiences for customers is a long-term differentiator for your brand.

For more, you may want to download our eBook on some fun use cases for bots across any business.

Or visit our resource library where we host blogs on AI and chatbots, videos, articles and more eBooks that educate on how bots can be used across a variety of businesses.

For more information about how conversational AI can transform your business, contact us.

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