SXSW 2016

One of the best parts of working at Volusion is that we get to live in the fair city of Austin, Texas. And one of the best parts of living in Austin is the revolving door of exciting events that roll through town! Over in the Volusion Marketing Services neck of the woods, we were delighted to send some of our team members to South by Southwest Interactive, a bubbling hub of panels, keynote lectures, workshops and symposiums featuring experts in the field of technology and innovation.

Throughout a jam-packed few days, a keynote from President Obama himself, and no less than five hundred mentions of “the Internet of Things,” we were able to pull out some great insights about the future of eCommerce marketing. Below are some takeaways garnered from just a few of our team members who attended this exciting event:

“My favorite session by far was Revenge of Bricks, Driven by Clicks. It was fascinating to hear the mobile leaders at REI, Express and Nordstrom talk about how their brick-and-mortar businesses are thriving because of their digital presences, including their ecommerce stores, mobile apps, social profiles, and email marketing. They discussed personalization, as well as how they tailored their messages to the medium while keeping a consistent theme throughout their communication. It really drove home how online and in-person retail can truly build off one another to make each experience significantly better.

“From working with mostly online-only stores, though, my biggest takeaway was the importance of bringing the in-store experience to ecommerce. These stores do the basics everyone would expect — detailed product descriptions, product images from every angle, video, etc. — but they’re now taking it a step further by bringing the product expertise customers get in-store to their online stores. Nordstrom has a chat feature that people can use to get personalized recommendations, and it’s staffed by experts in Nordstorm’s products. That’s something every online store should consider doing to improve conversion and reduce returns.”

- Julianne Coyne, SEO Manager


“As a PPC Specialist, I loved It’s Adblockageddon! How to Survive and Prosper. Digital advertising has become harder and harder throughout the years thanks to ad blocking browser extensions and firewalls preventing servers from triggering ads. In this session, we dove into how advertisers and content publishers can rethink messaging and strategy to ensure the most relevant ad experience for users and continue to engage and pique customer interest in the products and services advertised to them.

“I really enjoyed Accessing the Inaccessible: Evolving Search, too. While the search engine results pages change often, we haven’t really seen an update in the way we search for things online. Search Engine Land Founding Editor Danny Sullivan sat down with Biz Stone of Twitter and Xanga to discuss Biz’s new venture, is a new kind of search engine routing user queries to the person best suited to answer them. Rather than sifting through several results, Jelly users can get back to life and have an answer sent straight to their phone once available. This in-depth discussion gave a sneak peek into what we can expect once finally launches, but, more importantly, provided some insight into the “human algorithm” and how search might shift in the future to become even more personalized and expert-driven.”

- Chelsea Cepeda, Search Marketing Team Lead


“My favorite session was Short-Form Filmmaking: Stars of Social Media. This session featured insights from brand ambassadors as well as Snap, Vine and other digital media stars. One of my biggest takeaways was that you don't have to go after the top ten bloggers in your field. Instead, focus on spreading your budget among 3-5 people with smaller followings. Because I do social media marketing for such a wide array of eCommerce businesses with different budget sizes, it was great to get confirmation that we can create an impact, no matter our resources, by making strategic choices.

“I also enjoyed a takeaway I learned at a panel on building brand identity, which is to make sure your brand matches both online and offline. It seems obvious, but a lot of people do not bother to make sure that their brick-and-mortar aligns in look and feel with their eCommerce shop. Branding is more than just a logo. That same panel challenged us to think about our mission statement, so that we can use that to build our brand.

“Finally, I loved Is Twitter the New Customer Service Call Center? Customers want to be able to rant – and do so publicly – and get a response in a timely fashion. This means that brands need to be on social media and that they need to listen, not just send messages out. Currently, Southwest Airlines has a six-minute response time to feedback they receive on Twitter – they’re an example of a business that’s listening!”

- Mikkayla Casey, Social Media Strategist


“My two favorite sessions – and I swear I didn’t plan it this way – were both about averages. They even countered each other slightly in theory, but the overall philosophy resonated strongly and consistently: there is no such thing as “average” anymore. In The End of Average, educator and developmental psychologist Todd Rose presented a series of brain scans that prove that not only is there no such thing as “average,” but also that, in most instances, every single individual is so far from what the data would consider average that it’s a bit ridiculous to make any assumption based on that data. Instead, context is key.

“An example Rose cited was a study showing that people who win “Hackathons,” or technology incubation contests, are not the most likely people to be top performers at a company. Similarly, it is virtually meaningless to talk about someone’s potential independent of their immediate environment, or about the actions they will take independent of their background. These insights were important to me as a marketer because of how often I rely on data and analytics to drive my decisions; yet there are times when even the best data can’t paint the full picture or determine the best strategies. What I’ve been discovering time and again lately is that empathy is key, and that every story we tell needs to be about the individual, not the group.

“The other session I loved was Understanding Average: The Inertia of Culture. In this lecture, Digital Strategist Maggie Gross argued that we actually can find an average – it’s just that there are two of them. There’s a “top 10% average” and a “middle average,” and they have vastly different behaviors and needs. Because these two averages are so different, it may seem like an impossible task to market to both of them at once. But what was striking to me was how the actions each average took were usually only separated by the barrier to entry for each one; so while the “top 10% average” may have seemed more active in certain ways, in reality it was only because the actions were easier for them to take than for the middle average. Marketing to both groups at once means removing the barriers of entry for as many people as possible, be it through a viral campaign like the Ice Bucket Challenge or through a health craze that everyone can get behind. Understanding the incentives that drive behavior and learning how to create those was a huge insight for me.”

- Meg Nanson, SEO Team Lead


Did you attend South by Southwest this year? Tell us what your favorite sessions were and join our conversation!