2014 is the year that we are expected to consume more digital than TV content. A lot of this will be video: A recent Cisco report estimated that IP video will account for 79% of all consumer internet traffic by 2018. One of the reasons for this is the sheer number of connected devices available, allowing online video to quickly become the content of choice for people seeking entertainment and information – whether on TV, PC, laptop or mobile device. For marketers, this has not only meant that no screen can be ignored, but that video content has taken on a new significance.

Attracting attention

Indeed, video is the perfect vehicle for delivering strong messages and telling a compelling story, and it is the one format that can actually be delivered across all of these screens. However, to really make the most of this vehicle, marketers must be able to tap into viewers’ “selective sustained attention” span. Lasting between 10 and 40 minutes, this is a fundamentally more attractive place to be in for brands than the alternative “transient attention”, which is a short-term response to stimulus and lasts only about six seconds. Selective sustained attention requires people to actively decide that something is worthwhile focusing on and spend time with.

Of course, the key to engagement has always been to provide valuable, relevant information. But attracting attention is only half the story. To really deliver on its potential, video needs to adopt the active, “lean forward” engaged user approach of other online content, moving away from the passive, “lean back” style of TV. Unlike TV, the internet experience gives users control over their path to consumption – they can click for more information or have their experience personalised according to available data. This is what holds their attention and encourages them to keep interacting – moving them beyond the transient attention span into the far more valuable selective sustained phase.

Make it easy

But there is more to unlocking video’s potential. Currently, video in any format means that anything that sparks interest or purchase demand has to be searched for outside of the video experience, forcing consumers to browse away from the brand to third party websites and e-commerce channels. Rather than forcing consumers to cheat on the brand in this way, would it not be better to combine the attention-capturing, storytelling capacity of video and then use interactive elements to further engage and convert the consumer without leaving the video? The aim is to create a unified and distinct viewing experience that eases the consumer’s path to action by placing the calls to action squarely within the video content itself.

From social rewards to real-time commerce, inline gamification, timed surveys, embedded contact forms or local store finders, interactive elements move the whole concept of video forward. Interactivity creates video consumption that mirrors web page use and moves consumers from the eight second transient attention span to the sought after, selective sustained attention mode to achieve real engagement, interaction and conversion.

The hardest non-technical challenge is to not go overboard when picking what interactivity to add to videos. Give your audience a single clear action or decision and they will act or decide. But drown them in a hundred options and they will give up on it. A successful interactive video campaign recognises that online user actions are the currency of the web and are driven by drawing the largest audience, holding their attention for the longest time and then efficiently converting them to buyers. Taking the traditional broadcast style of video and applying clickable, responsive web functionality unlocks amazing new creative opportunities that can drive measurable results by getting people into a lean forward, engaged mode.

Numerous studies and reports have shown that over half of companies utilise online video as part of their general customer outreach and over 64% of marketers expect the medium to dominate their strategies in the future. With near limitless potential reach, successful video allows customers to act as endorsers and promoters by sharing content with people within their social networks, leading to increased time and numbers of people interacting with the brand. Brands and companies work hard to make their videos stand out from the crowd and, as digital devices are inherently interactive, why not go the last mile and add interaction to video in order to get noticed and deliver the greatest level of engagement?