SxSW Daily Digest | Day Two | Saturday 12th March

Predictably, given the 100-mile-an-hour nature of my approach to yesterday, today has been much more of an uphill struggle. Whilst still packed full of more than my fair share of fascinating snippets and rewardingly challenging ideas, today saw my first exposure to the hit and miss nature of some of the panel programming, jet-lag and tequila induced fatigue and the impact of a festival crowd swelled by weekend day-pass attendees on the waiting / travel times. Luckily, there are few better places to be facing such first world problems than the 30th SxSW Interactive festival – so no big complaints here!

The first session of the day, $5 Trillion Question: What’s the Future of Retail?, proved to be the most impressive so far – by a significant margin. And it’s no wonder really – the concept of tackling predicting what retail will look like in 10 years’ time, when 10 years ago the iPhone wasn’t even a twinkle in the eye of Steve Jobs et al, is something of an incomprehensible task. From understanding what brands are doing by way of harnessing data-driven insight to inform how to best position themselves to Gen Z – who, while they may only be 15 years old now, will be a huge demographic for retail brands in 10 years’ time – through to understanding the potentially transformative power of machine-learning on the role of curating shopping recommendations for consumers, through to the impact that the rise of online influencers has had on traditional taste-maker models and where that could go from here (already we are seeing brands using big data analytics to identify potential future influencers and bring them to the forefront, almost seeing “reality digital” coming up in the place of the reality TV model of old) – this session was a stand out one for me.

Next was the promisingly titled, but sadly very disappointing Revenge of the Bricks, Driven by Clicks. Aside from the insight that 80% of consumers will have interacted with a brand on mobile (or “mohbl” as our friends across the pond put it) as their first touch-point, there was very little to take away from this. So, fifteen minutes or so in, I sheepishly joined the stream of people heading for the door and grabbed (another) obligatory set of lunch tacos before opting for a sure-fire keynote by the motivational Brené Brown discussing Daring Greatly. Through the course of her hour-long session focused around the transformational power of taking ownership of your vulnerabilities and failures to help you shape the future that you want, the seasoned Texan had us happily in the palm of her hand. For me, it was refreshing to have such a conceptual topic backed up with actionable advice in how to pull this in to your daily routine.

The last session of the day for me was a rare insight in to the impenetrably intelligent mind of Max Levchin (former CTO of PayPal, serial entrepreneur and all round computer science genius) who spoke us through Unstoppable Trends that are Changing the World.

Then it was time for a well-earned unwind in the sunshine (yes, sunshine!) before an ambitious looking evening of technology and music at Deloitte Digital’s Interplay Lab. As the sun goes down on just the second day of the festival – I’m starting to see sense in the marathon over sprint approach!

Written by