SXSW Interactive 2013: Mobile First

This blog is reposted from Digby’s The Mobile Retail Blog.

By Kirsty Hughan, Digby

Austin, Texas has just finished playing host to one of the most innovative and forward-thinking technology conferences in the world. South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi)  is a five day conference and trade show dedicated to the advancement of digital creativity and hosts sessions by industry leaders addressing cutting-edge concepts unfolding in the world of technology.

Mobile has been an exponentially growing industry in the last few years, both in widespread use as well as capability. We’ve seen mobile websites, apps and commerce explode, but what should we expect to see next in the push toward a highly mobile-centric society? This is what we’ve learned from our sessions at SXSWi.

Location, Push Notifications and Relevancy

In the U.S., 74% of smartphone owners use their phones to access real-time location–based information. Roe McFarlane, VP of Product Innovation and Customer Experience at Redbox spoke Saturday on the hyper-relevancy and personalization location adds to marketing. McFarlane discussed the personalization already intricate to Redbox’s mobile application, which allows users to create wishlists of movies they look forward to watching and favorite their nearest Redbox locations. But he also discussed the incredible future mobile has, mentioning how convenient it would be to receive a push notification as you drove by your favorite Redbox location letting you know that Spiderman is available for rental.

McFarlane also spoke about interesting joint advertising opportunities brought on by understanding location. Since Redbox locations rely on local vendors, the two have a symbiotic relationship. It is frequent that a drugstore displays popcorn, candy, and soda next to its Redbox location, encouraging visitors to stock up for movie night. McFarlane suggested pushing coupons to customers visiting a Redbox, offering them a discount on a bag of Doritos.

Retail: Going Mobile

Retailers, motivated by fears of showrooming are now engaging customers in and out of the store. A number of retailers and brands including Starbucks, ABC, WWE, and Redbox emphasized the need to contextually and personally engage customers through mobile, a technology that has the benefit of being always present with its owner.

A number of emerging trends in store including mobile point-of-sale, in-app check-out, and digital signage.  Starbucks’s Category Manager Dana Kruse discussed the opportunity mobile opens up between baristas and regular customers.  As the ordering and checkout process becomes more seamless, customers are freed from check out process in order to check in with their local barista and build a relationship.

Personalization was another key trend in mobile because of its ability to link to loyalty programs and customize content.  Both Tina Prause, Senior Director of Mobile Products at WWE and Peter Roybal, Product Management for ABC mentioned the success they have had in allowing users to customize their own experience.  In particular, Roybal mentioned how ABC’s mobile app allows users to follow specific news sources and receive push notifications updating them on how the news is evolving.

Consolidation & Specialization

At SXSWi, it is always interesting to learn about new apps that have been launched and the ones that stand out this year offer consolidated personal and business solutions.

pplconnect is a virtual smartphone app that allows you to tap into your personal information from any device with WiFi and urges consumers to pursue “mobile freedom,” a positive thing for Americans, who are constantly on the go.

Industry leaders also expressed a need for specialization in mobile commerce and sharing. Giving users the ability to search locally for services and products based on location and preferred cost not only customizes a purchase, but supports local merchants and small business. Zaarly is a mobile app that offers handpicked and highly specialized merchants, services and products using a smartphone application as the primary channel for search and purchase.

Lastly, the app on everyone’s lips was Uber, an app that not only makes it easy to find a nearby private driver but makes riding a private car seamless. By providing private drivers with their own smartphone with Uber installed, drivers and riders can quickly find each other. Further, riders can plug in where they are going and pay for the service on the spot, making trips quicker and less confusing.

Kirsty Hughan is Digby‘s Marketing Manager and as such is excited by the opportunity mobile provides to finally allow for a 1:1 marketing strategy for brands.  To stay in touch, you can find her on Digby’s FacebookTwitter or the Digby Blog.