South by Southwest (SXSW) bills itself as the premier place for discovery. Though the event remains focused on the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries, there is no question that the creativity and forward-thinking exhibitions found throughout this year’s event provide insight into how humans and technology will intersect in the coming year.
Naturally, this includes retail – and nowhere was this more apparent than in the SXSW Entertainment Store Experience. In this first part of our two-part recap, we outline some of the key takeaways around automation that we believe could inspire brick-and-mortar retailers to evolve their in-store shopping experiences.
[fontspecial]Physicality of Entertainment[/fontspecial]
Connectivity and digital interaction are being integrated into those familiar objects that already populate our lives - clothing, furniture, cars, buildings – creating the opportunity for seamless, discrete interactions that reduce our reliance on any single device.
The new Jacquard Commuter jacket Levi’s and Google demonstrated how the Internet of Things (IoT) can turn inanimate objects into an intrinsic part of our everyday life. This jacket enables a biker to talk, navigate and more. This innovation should provide all of us with the inspiration to IoT-enable inanimate objects to create unique store experiences.
The Levi’s pop-up also created a “Music Shed” that celebrated their decades-long ties with Rolling Stone magazine, music and culture. One compelling example from the 80s demonstrated how fans used to trick out their vests to support their punk band of choice. Fans wore them to concerts of competing bands as a passive way to give them the finger. The end result is that Levi’s proved how brand heritage and authentic stories make for compelling physical fodder.
The use of Artificial Intelligence is one way to create such moments. One example is in the form of voice-interactivity, and the minds at IBM demonstrated how powerful this application can be.
Most of us have seen the commercials about Watson and its voice-interactivity features. Watson brings the powerful opportunity to speak inanimate objects into existence. In the retail space, imagine how this service can customize the shopping experience based on responses to a few questions.
In fact, IBM provided possible insight into the idea through a machine learning exhibit. At SXSW, the company provided several scenarios of how Watson can transform how humans teach, diagnose, sell and find information. These use cases included:
- Find your perfect beer by answering three questions
- Determine your personality by answering five questions
- Select an emoticon to experience your ideal musical journey
This potentially game-changing experience makes it easier than ever to find the best recommendation or answer to your question – without needing to know you personally. Using Watson as a guiding light, it stresses the power and importance of actively pursuing conversations in retail environments – and relating them to the shopping experience.