TopRank Online Marketing
Nicolette Beard

Content Marketing with Interactive Tools: Pros, Cons, Examples & Best Practices

By Nicolette Beard     Content Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Online Marketing, Online Marketing Strategy, Visual Marketing

Interactive Tool as Content Marketing TacticAt first glance, interactive online tools may not seem like a content marketing tactic. But, when you consider their educational and entertainment value, interactive tools offer exactly the kind of ‘stickiness’ marketers and brands are looking for.

From the early days of collaborative online learning to sophisticated interactive tools that allow consumers to keep track of their calorie count and fitness level, today, numerous institutions, governments, news organizations and brands have incorporated interactive tools on their websites to further educate and engage their customers and constituents.

Why incorporate interactive tools as part of your content marketing mix? Because education is such a powerful and important fundamental to improving the customer experience. The ability to invest in effort and receive output contributes to a customer experience that can differentiate your brand. At the same time, useful interactive tools satisfy a need for your target audience. Ultimately, tools that enable user interaction and feedback can drive sales, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

According to a new User Experience Survey Report, almost three-quarters (74%) of businesses believe that the user experience is important for improving sales and conversions, increased customer satisfaction (72%) and customer loyalty (44%).

Big brands have been using education as a way to connect with their consumers for a long time. Tying added-value content using interactive media to education goes hand-in-hand. With a clear competitive advantage hinging on exceptional user experience, employing interactive tools as part of your content marketing strategy, will go far toward solidifying your organization as one that meets a core customer need.

In the ‘splinternet’ economy, being able to capture your visitors’ attention is becoming more and more difficult. But, when measuring which content marketing tactic earned the best ROI, interactive media ranked higher (36%) than sales copy (27.9%) and infographics (27.9%). eMarketer

Bottom line: “users want to learn and be entertained, quickly.” Interactive tools can help accomplish that.

H/T on the RF Intent Index from SmartInsights, which has other interactive tool examples.

RF Intent Index

The Goal of Interactive Content

Whether you call it a ‘widget’ or a ‘tool’, the goal of interactive content is to provide a unique personal experience that your customers and prospects might not expect from more traditional forms of content. Tools that allow user input and that publish customized output as content can be very effective, but interactive tools can also simply answer questions or facilitate a process, from quizzes to diagnostics. The focus should be on creating a meaningful touch-point with your brand and maintaining a connection among users.

Pros

  • Outstanding way to educate your visitors, especially if you employ subject matter experts
  • Chance to ‘show’ not ‘tell’ enhancing the user experience and your brand message
  • Receiving instant feedback is a compelling motivation for visitors to engage and return
  • Interactivity is a natural for offering high entertainment value, hence increased visitor engagement
  • A true value exchange creates a meaningful way to gather more in-depth customer data

Cons

  • Relatively expensive and time-consuming
  • Content focused on one idea will fail to encourage visitors to self-segment, limiting engagement
  • Confusing static product demos that do not allow for increasing levels of interaction with interactive demos that do can result in a barrier to entry

What Thought Leaders Are Saying

“Rich digital media is not just a trend; it’s the future of advertising. Agencies leveraging innovative design tools and technology have proven their effectiveness in driving higher engagement online in a cluttered Web environment.” Forrester Research

“We live in an age where we are all being bombarded with more content than we can possibly consume. As a result, if you want your content to stand out and have an impact, you have got to find ways to make it as engaging and interactive as possible. Content that you simply read is forgotten or, worse, completely overlooked.” Kevin Cain, Director of Content Strategy, OpenView

Websites Using Interactive Tools With Panache

SherwinWilliams

With content exclusive to the tablet format, Sherwin-Williams STIR® magazine tablet continues to provide inspiring ideas and technical insights into the use and application of color in residential and commercial interiors. Free to use on your tablet device.

Interactive Tools from Sherwin Williams

Getting it Right

  • Inspiring: Stunning, interactive photo slideshows
  • Engaging: Interviews with colorful design personalities and detailed project features
  • Educating: Tap to explore color by family, access RGB values and LRV numbers, and get product specs
  • Convincing: Exclusive videos, including behind-the-scenes project videos and interviews with our popular Color Spy personalities

This follows the customer journey TopRank maps for its clients: attract, engage, convert.

Vizrt

Vizrt provides real-time 3D graphics and asset management tools for the broadcast industry – from award-winning animations and maps to online publishing tools. Vizrt’s products are used by the worlds’ leading broadcasters and publishing houses, including CNN, CBS, Fox, the BBC, and others. The presenter guides viewers through pre-game statistics and lineups, in-game analysis and post-game discussions. Below, is the advanced analysis interactive tool for the 2014 World Cup.

Getting it Right

  • High entertainment value through advanced interactive elements via Multitouch screen, including 3D stadium models and maps of Brazil
  • Educating visitors using data integration from third party providers giving them a ‘team’ experience by displaying team members and player statistics
  • Ensures its viewers stay engaged by providing only highly relevant content, such as team formations and game highlights
  • Incorporates social media integration for this highly sharable content (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

ChooseMyPlate

Brought to us from the USDA, this highly interactive web application allows you to track your diet with daily food plans, BMI calculator, virtual coaching and more. I realize there are a number of similar web and mobile apps that compete, but I wanted to acknowledge the U.S. government and the people behind this interactive online tool. Despite the recent government shut down, it’s nice to see when they get something right!

Interactive Tool as Content Marketing Tactic

Getting it Right

  • Provides high educational value
  • Visitors can receive some form of feedback through virtual coaching if desired
  • Easy profile setup, giving visitors access to a host of interactive tools and resources

When incorporating interactive tools to your content marketing plan, the benefits are numerous. In today’s fast paced and information rich world, providing answers isn’t enough. Brands need to focus on creating experiences with their content marketing and interactive tools are one way to do that. On top of that, interactive content is highly shareable, increases qualitative time spent on your web site and can support the overall customer journey from awareness to consideration to purchase. This is the same approach we evangelize at TopRank Online Marketing for our B2B marketing clients.

By bringing content to life with interactive tools, you can gain insights into the customer and design for the ultimate experience and a mutually beneficial outcome.

What do you see as the next generation of interactive tools and design? What are some great examples? Any fails?

If you’re interested in other articles about content marketing tactics, be sure to visit our content marketing tactics index.

Photo credit: Shutterstock


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