How SXSW Created Custom Experiences

How SXSW Created Custom Experiences for Thousands of Attendees

by | Nov 17, 2015

Every year, the South by Southwest® (SXSW®) conferences and festivals converge on Austin, Texas for a unique blend of music, film, and emerging technology. Here, music lovers and networking professional alike assemble to make the most of the action-packed week that encompasses 150 participating venues, 6,000 events, and nearly 50,000 attendees.
Each year, SXSW’s goal is to personalize the experience for attendees by connecting them with the bands, places, and people necessary to create a forum for inspiration and innovative experiences.

Amidst this conflux of happenings filtering out the irrelevant is increasingly important and difficult. To remedy this, SXSW wanted to deploy beacons strategically through the festival grounds to allow attendees to navigate the festival, bands, and social networking opportunities in new and simplified ways using mobile technology.

To achieve this goal, SXSW integrated Gimbal’s location intelligence and mobile engagement capabilities into the “SXSW Go” mobile app. Additionally, they installed more than 1,300 beacons to allow for hyper-relevant location triggers.

Depending on the opt-in user’s location and what tags/interests they added when creating their account, different kinds of proximity engagements were served. Utilizing user preferences created a customized and individualized experience for each user in the physical world. Whether attendees were using the “SXSW Go” mobile app for the “Around Me” or “Attendee Match” features, each user would have different content served to their mobile device ensuring the highest degree of relevance and personalization. Taking into account multiple data signals, the “target audience” for an engagement was dynamically adjusted for each opt-in user depending on their preferences and location.

This program served as a model for the cutting-edge experiences mobile technology enables leading conferences and events to deliver to their attendees. The attendees who opted-in to location services enjoyed the new features and were able to navigate the festival like never before. The 1,300+ beacons led to the delivery of 415,000+ location-triggered notifications. Additionally, it allowed SXSW to understand how attendees interacted with their festival.

In a setting where everything is exponentially more difficult – more people, more places, more everything – mobile is a key tool is cutting through the clutter and deciphering only the content that is pertinent and relevant to each user. Layering in location and proximity-awareness allowed for a new degree of granularity that was previously unavailable and furthered the competitive advantage and reputation SXSW has as a leader in technological integrations.