Interactive Video 101: What is it and why should you care?

by Jen Bergen |

“Blu-ray,” “cloud storage,” and “convertible PCs.” These terms were thrown around left and right when these tech innovations hit the market. However, not everyone knew exactly what these products were or why they mattered. We all had an inkling of an idea about what they did: Blu-ray was some sort of DVD replacement, cloud storage held your files somewhere in the ether, and convertible PCs somehow combined a laptop and a tablet into one device…we think. Clearly, there was some confusion. As we dive head first into 2014, a certain tech innovation is next up to bat at the Misunderstood Plate: Interactive Video.

We’re sure you’ve been hearing the term “Interactive Video” more and more as of late with videos like Pharrell’s “24 Hours of Happy,” and the interactive music video for Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” making waves, but as the company behind the fastest and easiest way to create Interactive Video, we feel it our duty at Rapt Media to lay everything out on the table and explain what an Interactive Video actually is and why the technology has everyone talking. So, let’s start with the basics.

What is Interactive Video?

Interactive Video (IV) can take many forms. The simplest explanation is a digital video that supports user interaction through gestures, voice, touch, and clicks. Users can interact inside the video itself by playing with game-like experiences, filling out forms, or following along with interactive tutorials.

But IV can be many things.

IV can be shoppable, allowing the user to make purchases within the video; it can be educational, enabling the user to follow a tutorial or complete an HR training; it can be used for marketing, capturing customers’ attention by offering choices; or it can simply act as a source of entertainment, driving deeper engagement through branching video and microsites. Let’s take a closer look at each of these examples.

IV for Shopping

With IV, you can transform brand and product videos into scalable shopping experiences. Instead of watching a linear video online that showcases new products, smart brands are incorporating IV into their e-commerce strategies to not only captivate viewers, but also convert their views into sales.

By integrating an e-commerce platform with a website, companies can sit back and let the video do the selling for them. Linking product IDs to any video will allow that product to pop up during video playback, making it easy for the viewer to instantly add it to their shopping cart straight from the video.

Rapt Media’s technology enables companies to take video footage and create a shoppable experience. For example, as users move through the Interactive Video Kara Ross recently created, the jewelry and handbags seen on the screen appear directly below the video where users can add products to their cart with one click.

IV for Education

From publishing companies to Fortune 50 tech companies, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on training and education, whether that be product videos or HR videos. IV not only allows you to synthesize tons of video content into one interactive project, it allows you to integrate that with your Learning Management System to track employee compliance or obtain additional information.

Whether it’s a product video like the one we made for Sphero, the world's first robotic ball, or an interactive tutorial like the one Maybelline created for it’s Glamour Eye campaign where it reinvented the “how-to” video by creating an interactive beauty adventure, IV decreases drop-off rates and improves participation and retention. Using video as a more capable portal, viewers are able to access the relevant, deeper information they need.

IV for Marketing

IV allows marketers to easily create interactive stories that capture customers’ attention by offering choice, and then transforming that choice into a high-converting experience.

According to the recent Forrester report, “Move Beyond Awareness with Interactive Video,” marketers are missing opportunities with IV. Most brands are trading depth of experience and engagement for bulk distribution and the singular goal of awareness when they settle for lowest-common-denominator video formats.

A great example is the video project Philips, working with Ogilvy & Mather, created for its “Designed to Play – One guy, 5 styles, 625 possibilities” campaign. Viewers can select the beard style of the main character to unlock different storylines while the website simultaneously loads product information and styling tips outside of the player. The average viewer interacted with the video three to four times, which is higher than a linear video.

IV for Entertainment

While every IV is entertaining on its own, creatives are able to use Interactive Video for pure entertainment purposes. The number of interactive music videos being released is growing – and will continue to grow – but IV is also powerful for gamification of content and interactive microsites. IV drives deep engagement (often resulting in multiple views of the same content) and helps turn that engagement into valuable brand interactions.

An example of a great use of an IV for entertainment can be seen with Cinemax’s “Welcome to Banshee” microsite that enables the viewer to gain more of the backstory behind the “Banshee” series by interacting with the site, watching videos, and playing games.

Why Does Interactive Video Matter?

As Forrester’s “Move Beyond Awareness with Interactive Video“ report points out, “turning video from a lean-back to a lean-forward interactive experience redefines what is possible with the medium.” And for video advertising, a medium with an industry standard click-through rate (how successful an ad is at generating interest) hovering at just one to two percent, it’s time for a change. Brands that use IV, however, are seeing that change with click-through rates between five and 12 percent while also engaging and informing customers at the same time.

Speaking of engaging, the downside of non-Interactive Video is that it suffers from high drop-off rates. IV, however, sees completion rates of 90 percent and above. And since viewers often like to explore all the branches in an IV, at Rapt Media, we’re seeing multiple views per unique visitor as well as repeat views for the same video. 

Additionally, as mobile continues to increase in popularity, it’s imperative that marketers be able to engage and interact with consumers on any device. Philips’ IV project saw 65 percent of its viewers coming from iPhone or Android devices with an average mobile viewing time of more than four minutes. With IV platforms like Rapt Media’s Flash-free, HTML5 technology, interactive online videos work on all mobile devices.

IV is not only helping brands engage with customers, it’s also communicating the desired message in a powerful and memorable way, which in turn results in a more informed and involved buyer.

For more case studies and examples of innovative Interactive Video projects, check out our Interactive Showcase.

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