SXSW 2019: Healthcare, Retail + Innovation

SXSW can be…well, a cluster.  However, while tripping over Scooters, our team found their way to the crux of it all.  More so than previous years, we found adoption was a true differentiator at the tentpole this year.  Brands and consumers weren’t just talking the talk. Things are changing and we can expect to see even more adoption as the year presses on.  

So, now onto our three areas of focus:

  • Retail + Style
  • Tech + Innovation
  • Healthcare + Medtech

Our chief creative officer, Ricardo Salema, took on retail and style.  Here are his top trends from the event:

– Intrinsically tied to consumer centricity is a sense of value for your brand. It’s the reason your brand matters in your customer’s lives. Clearly communicate what that is and don’t just activate on it: develop for it. In other words, “purpose IRL.”


Transformation – An overused and tired term for sure, but we are still in the process of effecting this change for a majority of brands. And if we are being honest, this is a process that will never end. It is one that will continue to drive innovation as we try to answer consumer needs.



– It’s not just about taking custom orders, it’s access to data that helps brands with demand forecasting for better supply-chain performance, production planning, even real-time adjustments within stores. Add AI to this mix and you can supercharge your process.


The Drop
– Fashion and retail have always been built on a schedule of seasonality; borrowing from sneaker culture and disrupting the traditional process provide new opportunities to reach customers and build demand, buzz and authenticity.


Co-creation – As both a theme and process, this has been around for a while. But now, we are seeing new platforms evolve. Think custom on-demand clothes printing, shared software platforms developed for unique retail and style needs, and an ever-evolving feedback loop that will soon incorporate AI in meaningful, and yet unimagined, ways.

For brand implications and takeaways download our SXSW Retail + Style overview.



Next up, healthcare and medtech courtesy of David Bresnahan.  This space has gained incredible interest over the past few years and actually took SXSW 2019 by storm.  Here are the top trends from on the ground:

Autonomous AI
: Imagine taking doctors out of the equation and still being able to diagnose a disease with a highest precision of accuracy. A little scary? Will doctors be needed in the future? The answer to both is yes; however, the future is here. Diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness, already has an innovative FDA-approved AI system that can make diagnoses in less than a minute.



Virtual Care
: As the world’s population gets bigger, access to healthcare professionals becomes more and more difficult. With AI and virtual care, doctors are able to treat patients more effectively, efficiently and, most importantly, remotely.





Improving Cost and Access: All hospitals, physicians and healthcare plans are not created equal. Our healthcare system is complex and confusing, which leads to many challenges for patients to receive proper care. Innovative technologies, such as AI, are being used to take the complexity out of the equation to focus on managing costs while providing patients with timely access to medical experts.



Blockchain in Healthcare:
Blockchain technology usage in healthcare is in its infancy, but it is making waves in the Health Tech space. This technology is ripe for the industry as the need for a trusted environment for housing sensitive patient data and identity management grows. Providing patient privacy and trust across networks of insurers and providers is of the utmost importance.

So, how can brands really make an impact in this space?  Check out our Healthcare + Medtech recap here 


Last, but, as they say, certainly not least, Leigh Christie takes a look at tech and innovation.  Here is where the adoption piece really comes into play. Even just between CES and SXSW we’ve seen a significant change in the rate of adoption.  Since SXSW is less of a “tech” event – with celebrities around every corner – it’s easier to judge consumer acceptance of new emerging technologies.  Here are the top trends from this year’s event:

: They. Were. Everywhere. It felt like an invasion. SXSW became the dystopian future no one asked for, but grudgingly came to love. However frustrating these scooters might have been, SXSW attendees finally could cover one mile at a pace that was roughly five times as fast as walking or taking an Uber.



: Wearables were everywhere, too. But unlike scooters, wearables were brought in – more or less – by the early-adopting festival-goers themselves. Attendees were overwhelmingly sporting wireless earbuds, smart watches, and Oura smart rings. Blink and you’ll miss it though –these smart devices look remarkably similar to traditional fashion accessories.  


:  Immersive media is very much a thing. The Immersion at Scale: AR/MR Will Change Everything panel was so popular, a second session was added. It seems that mobile, tetherless and “worldscale” XR will continue to drive the industry forward as people have lost interest in 360 video and “3DOF” VR.



Blockchain:  While cryptocurrencies have fallen on hard times, blockchain for brands remain buzzworthy. However, few are able to clearly justify y blockchain over centralized servers. Still, when the general public does not trust the brand to control the information, it’s best to use a decentralized and immutable ledger, aka blockchain.


To find out what SXSW means for brands and consumers, download the full overview

By all standards, SXSW was a success.  For now, we’ll take our quick hop around the sun and, before we know it, find ourselves right back here…