Interactive is different now
User consumption of digital communication has evolved and matured.
Three years ago, we named our new digital department Interactive because we believed that the word “interactive” said a little bit more about what we do than the word “digital”. It may have also had a little to do with us thinking that the word interactive sounded trendier at the time.
The word implies two-way dialogue and I still believe it’s what we’re about, but I also think that the way we provoke interaction has evolved and matured.
We don’t need to get people to engage just for the sake of the action. Interaction and engagement online happens automatically with every click (assuming our users are actually clicking). And that which is most successful nowadays is far-less complicated. Accepted UX has an established set or rules that make sense. And the fact is, with the sheer volume of content available online and with dwindling attention spans, users now expect to be able to consume the content that they need in a certain way… And if they can’t, they move on.
This has the potential to make our lives, as creative people who sometimes specialise in the fluff and the spin, a little more complicated. We used to have a blank canvas to invent new fun ways of organising information and provoking engagement with that information. The goal was to make the task of exploring and discovering our content (and consequently our brands) entertaining for our users. But current design and UX trends are driving us towards simplifying the path to information.
Here are a few simple examples of complicating user interaction:
- Involved flash user experiences
Steve Jobs may have fast-tracked the demise of Flash, but the way UX has evolved and the collective acceptance of those standards has also had a big part to play. We now know how content online should be organised and flash mostly just gets in the way of this.
- QR codes
Generally, this is the most obvious example of interaction for the sake of interaction. It requires superfluous user participation that is not natural and does nothing to improve the experience. This example doesn’t require much more explanation because it makes the point. But often other offending communication efforts are a lot more subtle – something may seem like an innovative interactive idea because there is a little bit of complexity to it.
- Augmented Reality
I’m not sure this is ever going to be more than eye-candy and a little bit gimmicky? There may be practical, useful applications but they are few and far between. Why would we need reality to be augmented?
- Google Glass
As with AR, I don’t really see a benefit day-to-day in overlaying content and functionality over reality. Is it not easier to access that content/functionality through a small handheld device?
So, practically what does this mean? For the most part, flash interfaces and QR codes are on the way out and augmented reality has never really taken off. The more important general point for us as marketers is that the definition of interactive communication should have evolved and matured.
If we want to continue to listen to our users (which we should), we need to declutter and simplify. But how then do we create rich brand experiences?
In our business, the Value Proposition is imperative. In terms of published content, this means we need to create communication that is worthwhile in some way. Exactly what way it is valuable is up to us as marketers. But it could be informative, useful, entertaining, etc. And it really doesn’t matter how often you communicate as long as your audience believe they are being provided with value.
And it’s this value that now provokes interaction and engagement. Give me a little bit of content that I want and I will want more. Provide me with something useful that makes my life easier and I will keep using it. And if something entertains me, there’s a good chance it will entertain my friends.
The winners in Social understand that your foundation is providing customers with content that is worthwhile for them (the users!). These are the storytellers, the companies with personality, the companies that give information away for free.
Solving the value proposition is the starting point for successful brand communication in interactive! This isn’t a new thought; it’s been around in our business since the early days of CRM and DM. We are however developing new ways to deliver that value. And those ways continue to evolve in line with consumer behaviour and their consumption of content.
In summary, here is a simple toolkit for successful interactive:
- Always provide value. This is number one on the list because it needs to be your starting point!
- Logical information architecture and UX is critical to extend interaction.
- User interaction/engagement (focused around stated marketing objectives) should make sense for the user.
- Get your content (read: value) out there. Just because you’ve ticked off points 1 to 3 and you know your users will engage doesn’t mean they know that your content is out there. You need to promote it through other channels.