The following is a guest post from Guy Atzmon, SVP of creative and product at SundaySky.
Netflix has done personalization right from day one. From curating content recommendations based on a user's interests, preferences and shows previously watched, down to showing different versions of show thumbnails based on which profile is currently active, the platform simply gets it. Netflix understands what a great customer experience is — one that's seamlessly relevant to the individual person in a given moment.
The entertainment tech giant is making its next move into customer-centric experiences once again, with its recent announcement around letting viewers decide how a favorite show will end. The ability for interactive narratives that lets viewers choose how the story will unfold is an example of individual storytelling at its finest.
And what better choice for Netflix to test viewer interactivity than the dystopian sci-fi anthology "Black Mirror" that often explores cultural and social implications of technology gone bad? Interactivity within digital video and across marketing channels is a part of the future, and, contrary to the show itself, it's not a gloomy one.
The consumer experience is paramount at Netflix, and marketers at large have been exploring new ways that interactive videos can create a better experience for the end viewer — helping to educate customers, understand products and services and adopt new features.
Personalized video is a strong medium for communicating complex messages to customers, but sometimes the customer data that a marketer has isn't indicative of the viewer's interests. In cases where there's a lot of content a brand wants to share with its customers, a create-your-own adventure ensures the end-user has the opportunity to prioritize which topics are most interesting to her versus making her watch five or more minutes of video — or worse, risking the user abandons the content completely because the topics are irrelevant to her.
So what does this mean for marketers? Here's how marketers across industries can capitalize on interactive approaches that personalize the story for a viewer:
- Loyalty program & account benefits: Retail loyalty, rewards programs and credit card accounts run the gamut of value-added services and benefits, but each has its own laundry list of perks. Loyalty marketers can apply interactive paths to let the member prioritize the benefit most interesting to her, based on her preferences, interests and habits. For instance, Target REDcard uses interactivity to drive shopper relevance and personalization in explaining to new card members the advantages of using their card, giving examples based on their preference in how they shop (online or in store) and the categories they shop for (e.g., groceries, electronics & furniture, clothing & shoes).
- Answering common search queries or call center questions: Prospects and customers have questions no matter the industry. When customers search a website to ask questions, rather than navigating to the online chat or call center number, why not serve them an interactive experience that answers the most commonly asked questions? When video is applied to this experience and is the first piece of content served to the user, it can be interactive to enable personally relevant content — the customer can indicate the nature of their inquiry, receiving guidance to a solution or stimulate a call-to-action. For instance, a customer who searches AT&T's website for such terms as, "how do I pay my bill online" receives an interactive video experience that promotes online payment. The customer is prompted with questions such as, "Are you ready to make a payment now?" and "Are you ready to schedule a payment or make a payment arrangement?"
- Get to know new customers: With interactivity, there's an added value of learning more about users. These decision trees not only help customers and cut care costs, they're also a good means to collect more data and feed it back to your CRM. In Target's case, if they can see that 75% of their customers say they prefer to shop in-store, retailers can use this as actionable data. In AT&T's case, the mobile provider can see if a user is more inclined to pay monthly, or if he wants to learn about automatic payments. Choose-your-own marketing isn't a gimmick; it's a great tool to learn more about your base.
The promise of interactivity carries its own challenges that need to be considered. Production costs for this type of marketing video are higher than a standard video as the brand is planning and executing multiple story lines. Interactive video is also more challenging to distribute; you need a specialized video player to play it, which means viewers can't explore it on YouTube or Facebook, where consumers typically spend significant time. Maybe most importantly, when you provide the user with the power to control choices, there's always a chance they skip over messages that your brand wanted them to hear.
Interactivity is another powerful emerging tool in the video marketing industry. However, just like with any other tool, marketers must consider where and when to best use it, taking into consideration all goals, audience and desired reach. You also need to consider what story you're trying to tell the user and whether you can use their data to enhance that story or give the user more control.
Interactive storytelling turns your content into a lean-forward experience, versus a sit-back and relax experience of typical linear storytelling. This keeps viewers engaged and ensures your audience sees the content that is most relevant and interesting to them.