Balancing intuition and data, wearables and AI - SXSW soundbites

History Will Be Kind senior account director Edwina Brook
By History Will Be Kind senior account director Edwina Brook | 15 March 2017
Edwina Brook

South by South West (SXSW) shows no sign of slowing down with tens of thousands of eager entrepreneurs, maverick marketers and digital diehards descending on Austin, Texas, to explore the future of tech and innovation.This is what has been talked about so far.

AI will become the king of content

According to Eric Horvitz, leading American computer scientist and Technical Fellow at Microsoft, "we are now at an inflection point for AI, thanks to increases in computation and memory, increases in data via digital economy, devices, web, and algorithmic progress.”

So today it is possible to imagine a not too distant future in which content is generated as a result of deep machine learning and in a way that is virtually impossible for a consumer to resist.

Horvitz showed how user data including demographics, social media usage habits and their paths of digital discovery have been used to create tweets optimised for almost guaranteed click through. 

Brian Witlin, CEO of Yummly, also hinted at AI’s potential to disrupt traditional content creation, with Yummly already on the journey to create new recipes based on the best ones within a category thanks to AI.

A challenge and an opportunity for marketers, the years ahead will show if our instinct matches up to the power of AI.

Data vs. intuition

Beyond AI, the power of data to inform design has been a hot topic at SXSW 2017, with debate continuing to rage.

On one side of the fence, Merci Grace, director of product for Slack, argued that “you need to balance intuition and data, because data won't settle interesting questions - such as, what product should we create?”. Grace said that at Slack, they see the value of human intuition honed over time and immersion in their customers’ world as a key part of the mix when it comes to designing solutions or products.

Navin Iyengar, lead product designer at Netflix, said intuition can only take you so far, with experimentation and A/B testing the key to better design. Whether you’re a product designer, web or content producer, social manager or PR pro, there were lessons from his approach which focused on four key pillars:

1. Test before you invest, using a single core hypothesis and A/B approach
2. Use a core metric as your compass
3. Consider extremes - ensure you test wide variations, not just small tweaks
4. Observe what people do, not what they say (because we're all liars) to get to the heart of consumer behaviour, needs and challenges

The next wave of consumer research is wearable

Not yet on the market, a new brand created out of Israel is set to take fashion retail analytics to the next level. Fashion marketing guru, Aliza Licht of Alice & Olivia and #dknyprgirl fame, said we are set to see smart tagging technology in goods used to analyse post-purchase behaviour. The return for sceptical consumers who may not want brands monitoring their every move? They will receive rewards every time they wear an item – it's Frequent Flyer points for fashion.

It's all about women

Across the globe women oversee 70% of consumer spending, yet 91% of women think advertisers for corporations don't understand them. According to Ingrid Vanderveldt, founder of Empowering a Billion Women by 2020 and First Entrepreneur in Residence for Dell, brands need to be more focused in thinking about how they can truly help and support women.

When women believe an organisation is authentically trying to help them succeed, 80% will try their product and 92% will pass the information on, fuelling that all important word of mouth.

Evolution of the innovation lab 

Innovation labs and their roles inside organisations and as standalone operations are evolving. Preston So, development manager of Acquia Labs at Acquia, believes innovation labs need to push the boundaries of design, while also remaining grounded in reality to bring a future product into the present.

For agencies, innovation is key and we have a lot to bring to the table when it comes to overcoming brand’s business challenges. So how can we jump on the innovation lab model and support clients who may be looking to do the same? The opportunity is to work with your partners to create a co-funded lab for a win-win.

Quote of the day

"We are benevolent arms dealers. We just make content and put it everywhere." – Thomas Hughes, executive vice president of Worldwide Digital Distribution at Lionsgate, on traditional entertainment companies rising to the digital challenge.

By History Will Be Kind senior account director, Edwina Brook, part of the Deepend Group

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