SXSW Uses Mobile Wallet to Lower Costs & Extend Digital Experience for 2016 Guest Passes

Every year, South by Southwest (SXSW) brings people to Austin, TX from far and wide to enjoy the best music, film and interactive events of the year.

For its 2016 event, SXSW catered to the mobile nature of its audience and used mobile wallet solution, Urban Airship Reach, to simplify and improve the Guest Pass experience.

The result? Lower costs, broader reach and increased mobile engagement while supporting its focus on sustainability.

The Client

SXSW is a well-known North American event that offers a unique convergence of music, film and technology in its annual conferences and festivals in Austin, TX. Each year, SXSW ups the ante by integrating innovative technology into the attendee experience.

The Strategy

In this third year of the Guest Pass program, SXSW wanted to simplify the Guest Pass experience by introducing a mobile wallet pass as an alternative to the physical wristband. Previously, users had to obtain credentials via the SXSW website and then pick up their guest wristband at a physical location in Austin prior to attending any free shows or events. This labor-intensive approach required the SXSW team to coordinate with outside vendors and retailers around Austin, print and deliver the wristbands and troubleshoot issues with missing bands on-site — all within days of the event.

By partnering with Urban Airship, SXSW revamped its Guest Pass program so users could quickly provide their information and register for the event from a web page. Instead of going to a physical location to pick up their wristband, participants simply downloaded the mobile wallet pass to their phone and were ready to go. No printing and no staff coordination around delivery meant less costs and time spent for both SXSW and its attendees, freeing up precious time prior to the festival starting.

Given that the pass registration process tied users to a specific registration information (i.e. email), the SXSW team was able to create a better digital experience for attendees since it provided a way to identify the user across different channels, such as its SXSW GO app.

The Result

Using Urban Airship Reach, SXSW increased its total credentials distributed by 25% (compared to physical-only guest passes in 2015). They also saved on costs.

“With Urban Airship Reach, we’ve started to move away from the dependency on physical passes, leading to a smaller footprint in terms of both cost and sustainability, all while gaining more Guest Pass participants,” said Michael Brown, SXSW senior technical project manager. With five mobile wallet guest passes issued for every single physical pass, SXSW reduced credential costs by more than half — 54% less than 2015 costs.

Mobile wallet worked well for the SXSW team because they could customize the pass to fit their needs, as well as easily update passes with new information if needed. For Guest Pass holders, mobile wallet passes  created an easier, faster and more seamless experience. “We didn’t hear a single complaint from Guest Pass holders —the lack of complaints is always a sign of a good user experience,” said Brown.

Next year, SXSW aims to dynamically update its mobile Guest Passes and use mobile wallet notifications when the need arises. “Overall, it was very successful and, now that we have this tool, we are starting to think more about other processes we have and how this might fit into those,” Brown said. “We’re looking beyond the Guest Pass program at potential expansions, and where it might make sense in other parts of our event.”

We Can Help

Urban Airship can help businesses of any size or type create an effective mobile wallet marketing strategy to advance their business goals. To learn more about mobile wallet as an engagement channel, check out our Content Library, try a free trial of Urban Airship Reach, or contact us.

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