Notes from SXSW: Beacons, Beacons, Everywhere

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A month ago, the Loopd team touched down in Austin, TX to attend the annual SXSW conference. The energy was palpable and the excitement undeniable, so while the Austin locals may be trying to “keep it weird,” events like SXSW can’t help but make the city the epitome of cool. From new bands, to trends, to technology, SXSW is all about discovery and innovation, and this year was no different.
For Loopd, SXSW proved the perfect substrate to experiment with the importance of relational analytics. Dynamic people in a dynamic environment collide for a few short days. In the past, information could be easily lost and important connections missed. With engagement marketing tools like Loopd, these short-lived events can have lasting impact with long-term results.

During our time at SXSW, we participated but also observed, utilizing and analyzing the importance of beacon technology. Now that our ears have stopped ringing for the killer concerts, here are our thoughts:

Two major use cases for beacons at SXSW:

SXSW Official Beacon Program: This much-touted program paired iBeacon technology with the official SXSW GO® mobile app. It featured push notifications around the event, but they lacked both context and quality. The app incorporated beacon zones intended to provide attendees with a comprehensive view of other nearby attendees and hoped to catalyze meaningful connections. It also provided attendees with event messaging when they walked by a hot spot, however the system failed to deliver robustness and focus.

Business-Focused Application: In contrast with the official beacon program, Loopd utilized an application at the tradeshow that focused on enhancing the business experience. It gave attendees useful information and equipped exhibitors with data and analytics that were previously unmeasurable or inaccessible.

The Loopd system was built to grow with a scalability that made it a consistent and reliable tool throughout the show. Important data was captured accurately, and while the experience for a user was passive, the results showed that the future of beacons is dynamic. Our observations also showed that the usefulness of beacons was best realized when there was a focused end goal.

Loopd took these findings and invited SXSW attendees to participate in ascavenger hunt. We powered over 500 attendees with the LoopdBadge, partnered with 14 participating companies, and watched the future of event marketing in action. The scavenger hunt was a giant success, exceeding anticipated participation and receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback.

After the event, our 14 partner businesses received analytics that quantified their interactions with scavenger hunt participants. In addition to a heat-spot traffic map, they were given our proprietary Via Score that contrasts number of visits, dwell time, and return visits for each partner individually.

Derek Mercer, CEO of Traitify, had this to say: “I’ve never seen anything like Loopd before, and we’re excited to use this solution to sift through the flood of contacts and interactions at SXSW to find a manageable set of mutually beneficial long term relationships. With Loopd, we’ll be able to determine what attendees find valuable, helping us to focus on the right event strategies in the future.

Overall, marketing received a tremendously positive review at SXSW 2015. For us at Loopd, we were able to see our tools in action and gain insight on how to best equip attendees and exhibitors alike. We are counting the days until SXSW 2016 and planning on how to make Loopd even better. Until then, check out the new video we rolled out at SXSW and pretend like you were there.