SXSW 2015: The Consumer Experience 2.0

SXSWi 2015 is underway, and the Lab kicked off the conference with panels from sports owners and marketing directors. So far, we’ve noticed the conversation focusing on the consumer experience.  Sports teams and retailers both rely on truly intimate experiences to define both brands and bottom lines. Watching sports on television and buying shoes online are great, but physical presence can truly elevate the experience.

For instance, Major League Soccer is positioning itself as the premier sport for tech-savvy millennials, yet its live attendance far outstrips broadcast audience. Think about that: while NBA and NFL are looking into virtual reality to bring couches into the game, American soccer is pumping up the fans in the stands. Teams are dedicated to tech — not, says Seattle Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer, “just for the sake of investing in tech,” but because the future of the stadium is the future of their businesses. Sporting Kansas City is tech-positive, starting an entire business called Sporting Innovations, which is devoted to connected sports. The team has invested in WiFi throughout the stadium (built in 2011 as a tech-friendly sports venue), has created a real-time mobile engagement platform, and encourages social interaction during the game. And with WiFi comes data. “There’s about a terabyte of info across wifi over 90 minutes,” explained Heineman.”

Meanwhile, retailer Alex and Ani is pursuing its connected strategy with an emphasis on experience. The jewelry brand’s in-store sales volume is massive, but each store has a relatively small footprint, meaning “[their] biggest problem is lines,” noted VP of Digital Ryan Bonafacino. Helping the consumer interact outside of human associates is an ideal way to streamline the in-store experience.

But in-store innovation extends beyond just the consumer: Lowe’s distributes an app for its associates that, in the words of Digital Experience and Omnichannel head Sean Bartlett, “has the same requirements and rigor as the consumer-facing app.” Real-time inventory, ecommerce and consumer engagement are integral parts of the sales environment, and are helping to create a more intimate experience between consumers and their purchases.