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what is interactive video

What is Interactive Video?

Interactive video is a new form of media many top brands are using to engage consumers and reach their digital marketing goals. While new, this media has already proven to be very effective; 70% of marketers say interactive video engages audiences “well” or “very well,” and 68% of marketers believe it will continue to become a more important component of modern marketing mixes.

But what is interactive video? If you’ve heard of this new form of video media but don’t know exactly what it is or how you can use it, we’ve put together this simple guide to understanding it.

Interactive video vs. linear video

Traditional video, or linear video, is the type of video you’re probably most used to. When you view a linear video, you click “play” to start to the content, with the options to pause, rewind, fast forward and restart the video during the experience. Aside from those limited functions, there isn’t much you can do to interact with a linear video.

An interactive video, gives the viewer the ability to interact with the video content itself through a variety of tools. Users can click, drag, scroll, hover, gesture and complete other digital actions to interact with the video’s content, similar to the way they’d interact with web content.

There are several different functionalities you can build into an interactive video, but the most commonly used options include:

  • Hotspots: clickable areas within a video; these buttons can take a viewer to a separate web page or reveal content directly within the video, like merchandise pricing
  • 360 views: the ability for a user to drag the screen within a video frame to see in all directions
  • Branches: different paths a user can take to control and customise the content they see
  • Data inputs: form fields through which a user can enter information like their name, age, etc.
  • Quizzes: combining buttons and branching to deliver an assessment and reveal a personalised result at the end of the video  

These tools create a more fun and engaging experience for the viewer and turn a potentially static video into something more memorable, enjoyable and interactive.

Why use interactive video?

Interactive video has quickly become a well-established and widely used marketing tool. 20% of marketers say they’ve used it, and of those marketers, 78% have found it to be an effective strategy. On top of that, 28% of marketers plan to use interactive video in 2018. Those numbers will continue to increase as brands explore different tactics and figure out which resonate most with their target audience.

As you contemplate whether interactive video is right for your brand, consider the main reasons many companies are adding it to their digital media toolbox.

It’s popular

The best marketing strategies incorporate media that consumers want to interface with – and right now, that’s interactive video. Its popularity is shown by both brand and consumer behaviour. Brands are producing interactive video at an astonishing rate; in fact, it already accounts for 36% of all video content that’s produced. On the other side, consumers are responding to interactive video with increased engagement rates; viewers watch them 44% longer than linear video.

It’s trackable

For a long time, the only way marketers could track a video’s success was through view rates. This was a problem for many people who found it difficult to prove the value of their video efforts; without data to show a correlation between video activity and conversions, it can be hard to prove a video’s impact.

Interactive video has enabled much more powerful video metric tracking. You can now track clicks within a video, analyse different paths taken with branching, collect data with video form fields, and much more. There are several tools you can use to track these metrics. Some well-known tools include:

  • Rapt, a cloud-based interactive video creation and publishing tool with a built-in analytics dashboard to track user demographics information, plays, user paths and more
  • DilogR, a video hosting platform that integrates with CRM and email marketing platforms to analyse how interactive video impacts the end-to-end user experience
  • Spotful, an interactive video management tool and video player with analytics to track engagement, conversion rates and completion rates

It’s more engaging

When a user is watching a linear video, it can be easy to get distracted. 87% of viewers use more than one device at a time, meaning you’re already vying for your audience’s attention. Interactive video makes viewing active instead of passive, creating a game-like experience that grabs and keeps a user’s attention and results in a 591% lift in user activity – a huge increase most marketers can’t afford to pass up.  

It converts

Interactive videos convert at significantly higher rates than many other types of digital video ads. Specifically, banner ads, Google display ads and Youtube Annotations convert at rates of less than 1%. Interactive video blows all of those out of the water, converting at a rate of more than 11%.

It’s more memorable

It turns out the sheer ability to engage with content in an interactive video makes a user more likely to remember your brand. Even if a viewer doesn’t interact with the video itself, interactive video ads are 32% more memorable than linear video ads.

It delights the user

On top of the hard data points above, interactive video is simply more enjoyable than linear video. It’s a great way to add a moment of delight to the user experience as your viewers explore an interactive story and learn more about your brand, all while having fun.

What makes a great interactive video?

While there are lots of things you can do with interactive video, there are several qualities that the best examples all share. As you consider how to add this media to your marketing mix, take into account these best practices.

They use interaction thoughtfully

First and foremost, great interactive videos are intentionally designed. Just like you strategically design a user interface so that a digital product or website is easy to use, an interactive video must also be designed with the end user in mind. A great video isn’t interactive for the sake of it. It uses interactivity to enhance the user experience, not show off.

healthline interactive video

Healthline is a great example of a brand that’s designing this media thoughtfully. When it comes to health, everyone’s path and experience is different – which makes interactive video a perfect fit for telling their story. Healthline’s type 2 diabetes video asks users questions about their personal health experience to curate the right content for each individual user. The experience is easy to navigate, and the information is personalised and meaningful – the ideal combo for a well-designed interactive video.

They use gamification

Interactive video gives marketers the ability to gamify a video experience in a way linear video could never do. This technique is called branching, or creating multiple content pathways for a user to create a unique experience they select themselves. The Healthline video above used branching to create different content paths based on the user’s own situation. Healthline’s video may have been more serious, but this technique can also be used for fun.

focus interactive video

Warner Bros. showed how interactive video can create a choose-your-adventure style experience for audiences. The brand’s promo video for Focus, a movie about a veteran con artist, lets viewers take their stab at amateur con artistry. Users can choose to try and scam an art dealer, internet mogul or investment banker. Each comes with a series of challenges to create a game-like experience they couldn’t have achieved with linear video. With this example, Warner Bros. shows how you can create a playful video game with a few simple branches.

They’re engaging and entertaining

Great marketing doesn’t just sell product – it’s enjoyable and entertaining for the audience. This is true for most media; think about the best social media campaigns and Super Bowl ads. The ones that come to your mind likely have an entertainment factor built into the campaign. Interactive video takes video marketing entertainment to a whole new level.

honda civic type r interactive video

honda civic type r interactive video

One brand that did this well was Honda. The automotive giant wanted to showcase the diversity of the Civic Type R as part family car, part performance vehicle. In their video, users could toggle between two parallel yet completely different stories by literally typing “R” on their keyboard. One story positions the Civic as a family car; the protagonist in the story picks up his daughters from school and completes other fatherly duties. Meanwhile, if you type “R,” you’ll see the same man, still in a Civic, living a much more intense and dangerous life as an undercover agent busting a major robbery. Honda shows how interactive video can be a nearly cinematic experience if you weave in an entertaining plot line.

They let the user be part of the story

Perhaps one of the greatest values of video is its ability to tell a strong story. Interactive video takes storytelling to new heights, letting your viewers become characters in your brand story who make decisions on how the plot unfolds.

coldplay interactive video

One great example of this is a video by popular rock artist Coldplay, who released an interactive music video for their single “Ink.” In the video, the viewer plays the role of the main character and makes decisions about his choices throughout the video, truly becoming part of the character’s quest to find his long lost love. All in all, there are 300 different paths the video could take based on the various branching options. The video went on to win a Webby for Best Use of Interactive Video because of its original approach to a traditional music video.

Final thoughts on interactive video

Interactive video is a non-linear, gamified media that lets users click, drag, scroll and interact with video content. It’s a popular, trackable and highly effective way to convert users and help you reach your marketing goals. As you’re concepting your interactive video, remember to follow these best practices:

  1. Use interaction thoughtfully: Design the user experience of the video as carefully as you would a website or app.
  2. Gamify the user experience: Use the interactive tools available to you to create a game-like experience where the viewer can choose their own destiny.
  3. Be entertaining: Don’t just talk about your brand. Add value and create a fun experience for your viewers.
  4. Let the user play a part: Craft a powerful plot and make your viewer feel like they have a role in your brand’s story.

If you’re planning to use interactive video this year, check out other examples here and download the free ebook Getting Started with Interactive Video. It’s filled with helpful information for first-time interactive videoers, like:

  • How interactive video works
  • Ways you can use interactive video
  • How to create great interactive stories
  • Examples of great interactive videos
  • Other interactive video tips and tricks
Sam Parker

Sam Parker

Sam Parker is a digital and brand marketer. She has worked with leading companies across tech, healthcare, manufacturing and retail to bring brands to life through digital media. Her background includes work with some of the most respected brands across a variety of verticals, including L’Oréal, Victoria’s Secret, US Foods and AZEK Building Products.

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