Interactive video: What it is, why it matters, and why it doesn’t always work

by Erika Trautman |

This story was originally published via Video Brewery.

Are you struggling to capture and keep the attention of your audience? If not, good for you (tell us your secret!). If so, you're not alone. Engaging your consumers or employees is an uphill battle facing most companies today. Content creators are seeking ways to stand out in the endless online noise and reach their customers or employees in a more meaningful way. The tech-savvy ones are turning to technologies that enable them to create interactive content.  


According to marketing expert Heidi Cohen, interactive content is "content marketing superglue for visitor attention." Cohen also adds that roughly 50 percent of marketers use interactive content in their content marketing strategy. Research from Content Marketing Institute suggests that number will grow to 80 percent next year.

I realize interactive content is a broad term. These days, it can encompass anything from a PDF, quiz, calculator, map, e-book, and the list goes on. But I'm going to focus on just one type of interactive content today: interactive video. With 80 percent of all web traffic predicted to come from video by 2019, the need for video content that stands out from the rest is tremendous. And the time for it is now.

We know from our research that 64 percent of consumers are more likely to spend more time with video content if they can interact with it.

Though the concept of interactive video may seem clear, there are many types of interactive video that exist. And what might not be obvious is some types are better than others for engaging your audience and driving return on investment.

Below, I'll break down what interactive video is, why you should care about it, the different types of interactive video, and why they're not all equal.

What is interactive video?

"Video is more than something we can watch, leaning back in our chairs … It's also increasingly something we can interact with – leaning forward, and engaged."
- Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs

Interactive video can take many forms. Simply put, it's a digital video that supports user interaction through clicks, touches, or taps. It is video that goes beyond "play" and "pause." Users engage with content, navigating the storyline and revealing their choices to you, the content creator.

The applications for interactive video are vast. The three most common use cases we see are people management, learning and development, and customer experience. Here's how companies are using interactive video in each use case.

People management:

  • Recruit and onboard new employees
  • Healthcare and benefits enrollment
  • Ethics and compliance training

Learning and development:

  • Sales training
  • Skills and safety training
  • Leadership coaching

Customer experience:

  • Product training & onboarding
  • Product how-tos & education
  • Product selectors

From healthcare to financial services, companies across all industries are using interactive video.

Why interactive video

Interactive video drives results. According to Wyzowl's 2017 State of Video Marketing survey, 92 percent of those who've tried interactive video said it's an effective business tool. It's even more effective than webinars, case studies, in-person events, and more, according to a Brightcove survey.

By adding choices and interactivity to your video, you welcome your employees and consumers to lean forward and take part. Participation deepens engagement, enhances learning and retention, and drives behavior. It also generates data. With every click of a button, you gain useful insights about your viewers.

Interactivity is the new norm

As powerful as video is, and as much as we love it, it is one-size-fits-all content. It's a passive viewing experience, and people are no longer a passive audience. We've become a global population of interactive users.

We expect to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to gathering knowledge and information. Tapping, touching, and swiping through our day is now the norm. Passively consuming content, be it video or otherwise, no longer fits our needs when trying to learn or absorb complex information.

Interactive video increases engagement

The competition for your audience's mental bandwidth is always growing. Interactive video, which drives up to three times more engagement than traditional video, offers a way to stand out.

In a survey by Brightcove of 500 B2B and B2C marketers who used interactive video, 70 percent of respondents said this medium engages well or very well. In fact, driving better engagement was the top reason respondents turned to interactive video in the first place.

Interactive video prioritizes audience choice

What matters is the viewer is in control. Control creates relevance for the viewer, which results in impactful content for the company. Interactive video is not about attracting eyeballs. Instead, interactive video drives viewers to take specific actions within their journey.

With interactive video, people can choose what's relevant to them. Consumers are beginning to demand this personalization as part of their experience. For example, according to Rapt Media's Power of Choice report, 34 percent of video consumers want to be able to jump to a different part of a video.

Interactive video increases data & insights associated with user navigation

By providing users with control, you ultimately drive desired behaviors because the user is more invested in the content due to their participation. Building your experiences with data, behaviors, and insights in mind means each interaction is an opportunity to provide meaningful data and insights.

Adding interactivity at points during the video to ask questions that reveal insights allows you to learn more about the viewer. Just as analysts gain insights from website navigation, analysts can better understand audience preferences, behavior, and ROI through interactive video.

Interactive video is getting easier to produce

While creating an interactive video once required ample time and effort, technology is making it easier. About 25 percent of respondents in Brightcove's survey said building and launching interactive videos was difficult or very difficult. More notable is that twice that number said it was easy or very easy.

In addition to Rapt Media, companies offering interactive video—including HapYak, SnapApp, and Wirewax—are simplifying the creation, publication, measurement, and optimization of interactive content through their technologies. More and more content creators are experiencing the ease of these technologies. More importantly, they're realizing they no longer need to build proprietary solutions.

Not all interactive video is created equal

Not all interactive video technologies are equal in regards to the results they can drive. Each type of interactive video has its strengths and weaknesses. Here's how the different types of interactive video break down and how to think about them:

Linear video with interactive hotspots (annotations)

Most interactive video technologies can overlay hotspots on linear videos. Hotspots let viewers click out to more information about the topic they're watching.

The pros are that it provides the user with more information and that the user gets to do more than just hit play and pause. The downside is that linear video with hotspots is still a one-size-fits-all form of video. Simply linking out to content doesn’t provide in-depth data and insights around content preferences. It also doesn't let the user choose a specific content path—both of which lead to ROI.

Personalized video (data)

Personalized video (Hi, Alexander!) pulls in data ahead of time (name, location, time, etc.), presenting the user with a unique video. With content specific to them, users feel like they’re seeing a one-to-one video.

Personalized video is a good way to grab attention. It's also helpful for walking users through complex information that's specific to them. And it makes content relevant to the user. The drawbacks, however, include not being able to drive behavior and derive real-time insights from user behavior. Also, though personalized for the user, it's still a passive, linear experience. The user doesn't have control of the content.

User experience video (branching)

User experience video, or branching interactive video, is all about user control. Users can drive their experience, skip irrelevant content, and gather information at their own pace.

User experience video provides the equivalent value of a two-way conversation. The company delivers its information to the user who makes choices within the video, customizing the experience. The user’s actions then allow the company to derive data and insights.

Giving users control of their content drives higher conversion rates from your calls to action. You can measure and optimize these CTAs and choice-based behavioral insights to extract business. Companies building branching interactive experiences also reap the rewards of more loyal and satisfied customers.

And though that all sounds great, companies need to know that investing in this format requires a change to your strategy and workflow. You need to think user experience first and video second more than in the other two types of interactive video above.

Let's look at an example from Deloitte. Will You Fit Into Deloitte,” is a point-of-view, interactive recruitment and onboarding experience. The video takes users inside the company's culture while also educating them on Deloitte's various service lines. The user drives the content and chooses their own paths, allowing them to learn more and continue to the application process.


By 2019, video is likely to make up 80 percent of all internet traffic, according to In this competitive landscape, interactive experiences will help set companies apart. Companies may still be somewhat unsure about interactive video, but that's quickly changing. As they begin to see results from interactive video, this particular type of content will grow in popularity.

If you're wondering where to start with interactive content, try signing up for a free trial and create a few pilot projects. Test different approaches with the technology and content strategy, and see what sticks. Start small and start now. The future isn’t going to wait for you to get there.

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