South by Southwest Day 4: Why conversation is going to rule CX

SWSX's agenda is full of examples of how marketers will need to start factoring in the sound of their brand, not just the message

It’s the end of Day 4 at SXSW and some clear trends are emerging from the variety of sessions, keynotes and exhibitions.

It’s an exciting time for marketing as new advancements in technology are genuinely driving convergence: Convergence of media, technology, channels, experiences and business models. It feels as though we are at a breakthrough mid-point in this convergence - not quite yet mature, but definitely past the theoretical stage.

Let me illustrate how this is happening. At the foundational level is wireless connectivity. Devices are getting smaller, smarter and are communicating with each other. And when I say devices, I’m not talking about smartphones. I’m talking about sensors. Sensors so small they can be embedded in fabric.

These sensors are providing a constant stream of data available to be manipulated in real-time to provide improved outcomes for productivity, decision-making, safety, accuracy, and predictability. When this variety of data is combined, it becomes information - information that can be fed into intelligent systems whereby it is combined with other information to become more useful and valuable.

When you combine this vast volume of information with the processing power of super-computers and artificial intelligence the results can be staggering.

So how does all of this affect us marketers? On the surface it appears to be driving product innovation more than marketing. But that’s precisely the point. Successful marketers are creating innovative products to augment the customer experience of their product or service.

Think about it. Apps, wearables, social media, ecommerce – these were/are the early attempts to create digital experiences with your brand. But the future will see seamless integration between data, interface and customer experience. We won’t ‘pull out our phone’ to look something up in Google or buy online. The technology will be much closer to the body than that…you will make a product enquiry using your voice, have product information visualised in front of you, gestures will allow you to make choices and your virtual assistant will take care of the rest (ordering, paying, delivery etc). You won’t ‘go online’ to buy something, you will just buy it when you need it. Anytime, anywhere.

Conversation is the new customer experience interface

It feels weird saying that, as it’s also the original and oldest form of customer communication! But technology is going to allow us to converse with customers at scale - massive, global scale.

SXSW has featured many demonstrations of highly accurate speech recognition, combined with artificial intelligence that allows fluid conversation to be automated. There have been examples demonstrated using chatbots, robots and augmented reality. Including real-time translation and voice-synthesis (I even heard a dog talk).


One of the major considerations in creating a new brand will be the succinct sound of your brand name when pronounced, and how likely it will be recognised by machines as your unique trademark. ‘Siri' and ‘Alexa’ aren't just catchy names, they’re also very distinct audio waveforms to allow listening devices to pick them up clearly. How does your brand sound? What voice and tone will you use for your brand conversation? You better start thinking about that now. There’s a new job title I can envisage in our agency team: CX copywriter, or conversationalist.

I wonder whether those brands that have become words in our daily language might be major beneficiaries of the conversational interface?

“Please add some Band-aids to my shopping list” (or Kleenex or Chapstick etc)

“Run a Google search for me”

And if you a retailer selling lots of brands, then you need to start getting across how artificial intelligence engines rank sellers. These engines will recommend the nearest, cheapest, fastest delivered, and best rated products from every seller available, everywhere.

I’ll cover artificial intelligence more in my next post. Stay tuned.

- Jason Davey is the head of digital for Ogilvy Australia.

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