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Could interactive video shape the future of customer engagement?

17th Sep 2014
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Why aren’t online videos more interactive? When you compare the current engagement the format offers against the immersive and intuitive design we’ve cultivated for other aspects of the web, it seems odd that video hasn’t evolved all that much, following its transition online.

Things are changing, however. Driven by a demand from businesses to deliver more personalisation, extract more data and garner more results from the videos they create, interactivity is beginning to flourish on the web.

One company developing the technology required to make videos more engaging is Zentrick, and its founder and CEO, Pieter Mees believes an impending upheaval of the format is set to lead to businesses completely changing their thinking around what they can deliver to customers, both in the marketing process and post-sale.

“Video is a universal medium,” Mees states. “The problem is it’s a one-way communication channel that was invented for the television age. Now, we’ve just copied that over to all the other screens we use but have forgotten that these devices have touch and scroll capabilities that were designed for two-way interaction.

“A great example is movie trailers – how often do you see a movie trailer on YouTube that you liked and thought – I want to go and see that? Why isn’t there click-throughs for tickets? Why doesn’t that video source your location and offer a button for you to find the nearest cinema with times for that movie? It’s a convoluted process and we’re asking consumers to jump through hoops when they shouldn’t need to.”

Non-linear experience

Technology such as Zentrick’s is now allowing companies to edit videos to include not only click-throughs (such as those we’re already seeing pop up on the occasional YouTube video), but also calls to action, data points, gamification and personalised content. When considering how each different element alters the experience customers currently have with video content, the entire business-to-consumer landscape could be about to transform, once marketers really get to grips with the format.

“Video becomes a more non-linear experience once you give it interactive capabilities,” Mees adds. “It becomes consumer driven – giving something back to those watching so they can engage with video in the same way they do with web pages. It’s a similar transition to the one we made shifting from books to web pages.

“What’s really cool is, once data points are developed in videos, marketers can look at customer behaviour and build customised video assets, based on the data they’re getting. Once you can start tracking what customers are doing within videos, you can start thinking about what the consumer might react to within it and start customising the calls-to-action and the actual content itself.”  

Baking success

One example of interactive video in action comes from a recent marketing campaign from Unilever, called Interactive Baking Academy. The global consumer goods manufacturer wanted to pounce on the growing popularity of home baking in Belgium, so created a series of interactive video ‘workshops’ designed to not only guide viewers through the cooking process, but also give clickable options that led to FAQs and more detailed tips, as well as links to purchase the ingredients involved, a quiz designed to test the viewers’ knowledge of the relevant bakes and embedded social media connections so people are able to ask further questions; all fully functional within the videos themselves.  

After two months, the first video was already the third most viewed ever on Solo’s official YouTube channel, which was launched in 2008. The eureka moment came when Unilever’s marketing department studied the further results the video delivered, however.  The first video had an average view time of 4:39, compared to the usual of 32 seconds; it had also received an average of 4.72 clicks per video and, most importantly, a conversion rate of 25.3%, compared to industry standard ranges between 0.2 and 1%.

New data opportunities

While Unilever’s video series is an example of creating results with prospective customers, it is the post-sale process and customer support where businesses are already starting to benefit from the engagement interactive video offers.   

Companies such as Sky and Volkswagen are now using data built-up through the sales procedure to create personalised videos for their new and existing customers. Sky, for example, is now able to send emails to its newest customers with a video with the customer names embedded in the text, as well as a description of the individual services that that customer has subscribed to and programme recommendations based on expected viewing habits.

The data is key in these instances, and Pieter Mees believes that once businesses have a true grasp of how to link up their customer data in this fashion, video will only become more popular in creating more engaging customer support experiences:

“One of the biggest problems with the current format for online video is that, beyond viewing figures, it really doesn’t harbour actionable results. It also doesn’t give businesses the opportunity to put their customer data to work.

“However, interactive videos obviously generate more data through the movements people make, so from the marketing side you’re looking at being able to measure and test far more specifically what people find most interesting. But from a customer support side, you’re talking about being able to automate personalised messages to people and in-turn, deliver more enriched, relevant content. This can only be a good thing, and can only enhance the interaction customers have with their brands and improve customer loyalty.”  

A better TV experience?

Back on the marketing and advertising side, one problem that Mees admits interactive video desperately needs to get right is how they engage with customers across multiple devices, andalso how they are able to seamlessly link up from, say, consumer’s television set to their phone or tablet.

“The TV can only offer so much because it will never become a touch-screen device, purely because of the way people watch: sat on their couch, at a distance, as a shared experience.

“So we have to be thinking about second screens for the engagement element – people are using these devices while watching television, so it makes sense to be able to spread out what’s going on on the TV onto the second screens.

Social media is an important driver, in this respect. The opportunity for brands to latch onto the symbiotic relationship between TV and social media has not been missed; however, at present, marketers are still experimenting with the best ways to encourage engagement through this process, and this may be where interactive video strikes a chord:

“We’re seeing these social platforms starting to add value to the TV watching experience and so we’re trying to figure out a way to use social postings to build measurable value for marketers,” Mees continues. “The TV ad is only creating audience reach, it isn’t capturing value. If there is someone clicking on tweets or social posts through a bit of data connection between devices, then we can start measuring conversion and can start measuring exactly how successfully linked-up a brand is from TV through to second screens. There’s an opportunity for promoted tweets to tie into TV, as an example – if I get a tweet based on what I’m watching and it is for an interactive video from the brand currently appearing on my TV, then that’s truly an engaged experience. 

“All of this is work in process, but the potential is huge - we haven’t figured out the true boundaries of interactive video yet, which is what’s so exciting about it.”

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