SXSW Interactive 2016 is in the books.  Once again, there was no shortage of inspirational talks, cutting edge technology, and creative activations on display to catch the eyes and ears of marketers and communicators alike.  In case you missed it, the PR Council has you covered.  Here are a few of the topics that generated buzz and our 5 key takeaways for agencies from this year’s festival.

VR/AR is the future of communications

 You couldn’t walk more than 100 yards without seeing someone in a VR headset at SXSW, it was literally everywhere.  Virtual Reality is transforming the way communicators tell stories and how consumers experience brands.  If you haven’t had a chance to look into VR, the time is now – there are handheld 360 cameras (for less than $400) and low-cost headsets ($20-$100+) available for agencies looking to experiment without investing a ton of money.  

Gen Z is here

With $44 billion a year in disposable income, marketers must better understand how to communicate with this population (born roughly between 1995-2010 and currently accounting for about a quarter of the U.S. population).  It’s essential that agencies recognize and understand the differences in consumer behavior from their millennial counterpart – as an example, Gen Z is nearly twice as likely to shop via mobile and considerably less brand loyal.  For a more comprehensive guide on how to reach this segment please check out our article for Mashable:  8-second marketing: How to craft content strategies for Generation Z.

Snapchat is getting bigger than ever, and growing

Roughly 8 billion videos are viewed on snapchat each day, which is the same as a little platform known as Facebook.  If you are not using Snapchat, you need to add it to your agency arsenal.  And if you are still shooting horizontal video, it’s time to take vertical video more seriously – which is the natural configuration of Snapchat (along with several live streaming apps).  This is the preferred experience for viewing on mobile and according to Snapchat, vertically shot ads are viewed to the end nine times more than horizontal.

 

Experience is everything

The success [or failure] of brands is now dictated by the complete customer journey.  It’s no longer enough to just create a good product or service – every touchpoint plays a role in reinforcing the perception of the brand – from beginning to end and everything in between.  Agencies must take advantage of the opportunity to create personalized experiences for their clients via new technologies and social platforms.  With adblocking reaching an all-time high, it is increasingly important to create and maintain one on one relationships with consumers.

Social media marketing shifting to social messaging marketing

 Recently, there has been a massive increase in the use of mobile messaging platforms and chat apps (think WhatsApp, Line, Tango, Facebook Messenger, and even Tinder!) – monthly active users of messaging apps are at about 3 billion (vs. 2.5 billion on social networking apps).  ‘Chat app marketing’ is becoming a new outlet for mobile commerce and brand visibility – and users tend to be extremely loyal.  Agencies must keep a close eye on these networks as many are developing avenues for connecting brands, publishers and advertisers with users.

So, in short, what we’ve learned from SXSW Interactive 2016 is that agencies have an enormous opportunity to create and manage personalized customer experiences by utilizing modern technology and platforms.  It’s imperative that communicators stay on the forefront of innovation to best serve their clients and deliver results that exceed expectation.

So what are you waiting for?  Go out and explore some of these new tools!

SXSW Infographic

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