Editor’s note: You may have missed the original article on interactive content from CMI last year. We’re sharing an updated version now because interactive content is a growing opportunity for marketers.
Quick confession: More than a year after writing on interactive content, I’m more obsessed than ever with online quizzes and other interactive content tools and features.
As a marketer who always strives to remain in touch with my consumer side, I can think of no better way to uphold the interests of my audience than by placing my content in a context fundamentally designed to resonate on a personal level. (And it seems other marketers may just agree with me, as evidenced by 2017 research from Content Marketing Institute and ion interactive, which found that 46% of content marketers use interactive content.) On the flip side, even as a consumer wise to the tricks of the online marketing trade, I still find it hard to resist the allure of a chance to see a bit of myself reflected in a brand’s content.
46% of #content marketers use interactive content via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet
The value proposition of interactivity
Personal vanity aside, the increased potential to attract attention and drive brand engagement that interactivity can offer is a compelling reason for marketers to add quizzes, assessments, customization tools, games, and other participative features to their marketing arsenals. But it’s certainly not the only advantage these tech-enhanced content formats can offer. Consider a few more findings from the CMI/ion interactive research. Of the respondents:
- 77% agree that interactive content can have reusable value, resulting in repeat visitors and multiple exposures
- 75% agree that non-gated interactive content can provide a “sample” of the brand, resulting in a higher degree of lead nurturing
- 73% agree that combining traditional content marketing tactics with interactive content enhances retention of their organization’s message
- 68% agree that interactive content provides valuable ways to repurpose their organization’s passive content
Of course, there’s an additional way interactivity can pay off for your business that might be even more valuable: It generates critical audience data. For consumers to customize their interactions with your interactive offerings, they typically need to share a little personal information, thus providing deeper insights on their needs, interests, and preferences that your business may never have gained using more passive content techniques.Interactive content can pay off big for your business. It creates critical audience data, says @joderama. Click To Tweet
Because of these, and other benefits interactive content offers, the CMI editorial team thought it was a good time to revisit our discussion on the topic. For those who might have missed it the first time around, I’ve recapped the essentials of working with this powerful content format – what it is, how it works, and how it can be best applied to achieving your marketing goals. And because the techniques and technologies of interactivity continue to evolve and expand at a breakneck pace, I’ve also shared a few more examples to get you excited about the possibilities of working with these formats.
The nature of content interactivity
Interactive content enables users to personalize and participate in the content presented to them. By helping consumers see themselves in the brand’s experience, the technique offers the potential to deepen engagement and drive greater satisfaction.
Common interactive formats
Enterprise marketers who are looking to make a big splash with their audiences can tap into a host of compelling content features, ranging from the simple to the surreal. Here are just some of the most popular interactive formats, along with a few usage suggestions:
- Calculators and configurators – Frequently used by e-commerce companies and automotive brands, these tools can help your customers estimate and compare the costs of various product features, as well as evaluate the benefits of purchase options they may be considering.
- Quizzes, polls, games, and surveys – Use them to test your audience’s knowledge or opinions on a relevant topic and then generate a shareable report card so they can compare their results to those of their peers.
- Multi-touch photos and videos – Creating interactive image galleries and look books that give consumers a 360-degree view of the goods, services, or experiences you offer (think cars, clothing, or resort vacations) can help them virtually try before they buy, making the experience more tangible – and potentially leading to greater satisfaction with their purchase decisions.
- Interactive e-books – If you publish long-form content, such as white papers or research reports, creating a navigable version can help readers locate the most relevant sections more quickly.
- Live chats, diagnostic tests, and troubleshooting tools – These techniques can be used to enhance online customer service, increase a brand’s ability to respond to customers’ inquiries and issues, and reduce wait times for technical support by phone or in person.
- Assessments – Particularly well-suited to moving prospects through complex sales processes, these comprehensive surveys can be used to offer personalized information and benchmarks that your audience can use to track their progress toward a relevant goal.
- Interactive infographics and data visualizations – Creating an animated, navigable infographic or other dynamic visualization that drills down to stats can help you position the data in a context that will be easier for your audience to understand and internalize.
- Content wizards and recommendation engines – Acting as an online tour guide to your content library, content wizards use an initial assessment to understand your site visitors’ needs, and then serve up the content that’s most likely to satisfy them.
- Interactive timelines, heat maps, and map overlays – Authoritative and influential brands can lend their events some added gravitas by placing them in the context of relevant geography or history (like the Art Gallery of New South Wales did – click the image to see the full timeline).
- Virtual reality and augmented reality overlays – Use these technological advances to take your audience into a world of your brand’s unique creation and enable them to experience life in a way they may never have imagined would be possible. (See the Qantas virtual reality example below.)
Interactive examples at every funnel stage
Leveraging high-tech advances like scrolling video or virtual reality can certainly help your brand break through the noise of a crowded content landscape. But “cool factor” aside, interactive content doesn’t have to be flashy or feature-rich to contribute to your top content marketing goals. With a little ingenuity, even the simplest of these formats can be instrumental in helping you identify and address key consumer pain points, guide consumers through a complex purchase process, or increase sales.Leveraging high-tech advances helps your brand break through noise of a crowded content landscape. @joderama Click To Tweet
As I mentioned, interactive content doesn’t have to be high-tech to contribute to your marketing goals. But it doesn’t hurt to add a little pizzazz when it comes to associating your brand name with the powerful, memorable, or exclusive experiences that you are uniquely qualified to provide.
Example: Qantas virtual reality app
Editor’s note: You will need a VR headset to experience the video as it was intended.
The official airline of Australia created a virtual-reality-enhanced app that provides potential visitors with 360-degree video tours of more than 13 tourism experiences they won’t find anywhere else on earth. For example, the airline was granted permission to capture aerial views of sacred sites at Uluru and Kata Tjuta, including areas prohibited to the public such as Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. And, after virtually hopping on a helicopter to see ancient Uluru or view the spectacular sights of VIVID Sydney, armchair travelers who want a more up-close-and-personal experience can book themselves a flight through the app.
Providing key insights and advice that help consumers make more informed decisions always reflects well on a brand’s value proposition. Interactive content tools like assessments, configurators, and recommendation engines are ideal for helping your prospects explore available options, select their personal priorities and preferences, and truly experience what life might be like as one of your satisfied customers.
Example: Hello Fresh Flavour Generator
Meal-kit delivery services have become a booming segment of the growing subscription commerce industry. They are hot commodities, indeed; but with so many similar services on the market, it’s also difficult for these retailers to distinguish themselves from their competition. U.K. retailer HelloFresh rose to this challenge with its Flavour Generator. This interactive content tool lets consumers select the flavors and ingredients they are in the mood for and then sends them meal ideas along with easy-to-follow recipes to prepare on their own – whether or not they choose to order the HelloFresh meal-kit version.
With the help of the right copy, a landing page, and a carefully constructed call to action, information-driven formats like quizzes, infographics, and e-books can help you provide tangible value that will draw in leads and prospects, so you can further entice them into forging a more meaningful connection with your brand.
Example: Orbitz’s Perfect Match Quiz
Orbitz for Business created a quiz that shows business travelers how compatible they really are (or aren’t) with their travel service provider. Users whose results indicate dissatisfaction are served a message that’s personalized to the pain points they provided and a little encouragement to consider Orbitz as a solution to improve their travel-planning experience.
Done well, interactive content can also offer marketers invaluable information about their user base, which can be instrumental when applied to the lead-nurturing process.Interactive content offers marketers invaluable information about their user base, says @Joderama. Click To Tweet
Example: SnapApp’s Content Land game
SnapApp was looking for a fun, yet data-driven way to educate its B2B audience about the impact of interactivity while introducing them to the advantages of working with its platform. Thus, Content Land (a version of the popular children’s game Candy Land) was born. SnapApp began the development process by working with its sales team to identify key pieces of information it wanted to learn about prospective customers. Game questions and talking points were then crafted to speak to each player’s own marketing role based on the information revealed moving across the game board. According to SnapApp, the effort was a remarkable success, achieving a 55% click rate, 70% mouse-over rate, and 49% lead conversion rate – not to mention earning the company a 2017 Content Marketing Award for best use of interactive infographics.
You may think of interactivity as little more than a fun, attention-grabbing feature that has little impact on a brand’s bottom line. But don’t discount the lower-funnel benefits these versatile tools can offer, particularly when it comes to bringing consumers to the last, vital step in their purchase process. Content like interactive catalogs, solution planners, and configurators can help consumers select products according to their personal preferences, reconcile any last-minute cost considerations, or even complete the desired transaction with the confidence that they have found exactly what they’ve been shopping for.
Example: John Varvatos’ shoppable videos
When menswear brand John Varvatos debuted its spring 2016 collection, a traditional look book wasn’t enough. The collection was accompanied by a “shoppable” video powered by Cinematique, a platform that enables “touchable” video. As customers watched the video, they could click or tap on the items worn by the models. When the video ended, everything they had clicked or tapped appeared in a tab to the right. Customers could view product information then click a buy-now button and be sent to the item on the John Varvatos website. The immediacy of campaigns like this helps turn consumer interest into sales at the moment of discovery, striking while the iron is hot.
After consumers have made their purchase, you want to provide content to extend their engagement, provide support, and ensure that they are satisfied with your brand experience over the long term. Interactive features like diagnostic tools, trackers, and chatbots can be instrumental in helping customers learn more about working with the products they’ve purchased, troubleshooting any issues that may arise, and staying connected so they can share the positive experience they have had with your brand.
Example: Delta’s RFID baggage tracking tools
In 2016, Delta became the first major U.S. carrier to grant passengers the ability to track their checked bags through a smartphone app. Using radiofrequency identification (RFID) technology, Delta made every part of the routing process visible to the luggage’s owner – from the moment the bag is dropped at check-in to the moment it arrives on the luggage carousel at the traveler’s destination. Using push notifications and visual maps, the app lets passengers know when their bags have reached each handling checkpoint; and because the tracking system uses a RFID chip loaded with the traveler’s contact details, should a bag get mishandled on route, it can be located more easily and delivered to the owner with fewer delays.
What to consider before incorporating interactivity
If interactive content is so versatile, powerful, and immersive, why don’t all content efforts incorporate these techniques?
For starters, interactive features can be more expensive and time-consuming to produce than their static content counterparts. Yet, this isn’t always the case: For example, some interactive elements – like quizzes, polls, or heat maps – can easily be generated with the help of online software tools and templates.
In addition, some of the most innovative or tech-forward interactive techniques may require specialized coding and design expertise to develop and deploy or specific equipment to create and manage – resources that not all marketers have at their disposal. Again, third-party software and services may be able to shoulder some of this burden; brands looking to go big or go home should carefully consider whether it will be best to build or buy the capabilities required.
Then there’s the user side of the equation. Interactive features often have longer load times than simple text or static images do, which can suck up more bandwidth than your audience may wish to devote to your content. Not to mention that some features may need to be optimized for use on a specific browser, device, or platform, which can create a frustrating or disappointing experience for users accustomed to accessing content in any way they choose.Interactive features often have longer load times than simple text or static images do, says @joderama. Click To Tweet
And while consumers likely enjoy playing around with interactive bells and whistles from time to time, these content efforts don’t necessarily guarantee increased or sustained interest in your content, let alone improved marketing results. For example, some users may just be looking for a straightforward experience or a specific piece of information. Requiring these consumers to click, swipe, give personal information, or jump through a bunch of hoops to get what they want can have the opposite of the intended effect – driving them away instead of increasing their engagement.
Tips for getting the most out of interactive content
Make sure you have a compelling reason to use interactivity: Interactivity should enhance the natural appeal and longevity of your message – not serve as a substitute for real substance. If these features won’t give your brand an advantage – like making it more relatable, engaging, useful, memorable, or distinctive – it may not be worth the extra time and expense.
Match the interactive format to its intended function: When planning to work with interactivity, ask yourself what attributes of your products/services are most useful for helping your customers address their pain points. Then, work backward to select an appropriate interactive format based on how well it suits your message and fits in with your content mission and strategic goals.
Find one area to optimize first – but prepare for eventual integration: If working with interactivity seems too intimidating, consider starting with a small pilot program. Focus on optimizing one specific area of your buyer’s journey, but make sure you are prepared to tie your efforts to your other content marketing initiatives down the line – a point that Robert Rose stresses in his recent white paper on interactive content. Spend the time and budget to make sure that, regardless of the size of your initial interactive experiment, you’re able to connect subsequent experiences with the data you collect. In other words, plan to create an interactive platform – not just random acts of interactive content.
Don’t invent if you can iterate: Interactive content efforts don’t always have to be built from scratch. Instead, take some of your top-performing blog posts, white papers, or images and repurpose them as interactive versions.
Consider working with interactive content platform providers: Not only can third-party tools help with the heavy lifting in developing tech-enhanced content, some platforms can be configured to integrate the performance data with your marketing automation systems, CRM tools, or other content management solutions.
Plan ahead for how you will measure the impact of your interactive content: Downloads, social shares, and data generated through Google Analytics (e.g., bounce rates, time spent on page, traffic sources, and conversion rates) can help you set initial performance benchmarks. But for a more fully rounded view of performance, you may want to set up more sophisticated analytics capabilities, like click tracking, engagement scoring, and behavioral tagging.
Interactive content is a powerful, versatile way for marketers to enhance their content’s reach, impact, and performance. But with higher-than-average resource requirements and a vast array of formats and functionalities to consider, businesses will want to carefully weigh the pros and cons against their content mission and goals before incorporating interactivity into their marketing mix.
Looking for more ways to maximize the impact of your interactive content? Get practical insights, advice, and answers in our 2018 Guide to Essential Content Marketing Tactics.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).