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How can we keep up with content innovation?

Keeping ahead of content innovation sounds simple in principle. In reality, the technology curve is ever-steepening. Modern businesses strive to communicate ideas in new, exciting, innovative ways but when there are so many tools and technologies at our fingertips, it can be hard to know which ones to use.

In the marketing world alone, there are over 7,000 marketing tools to pay attention to – and who would have thought that QR codes would suddenly come of age in 2020?

The end goal is to combine technology with creativity and strategy to overcome business challenges and get good work done. But with information overload, we can find it challenging to match our great ideas to the means of delivering them. So how can we keep up with content innovation?

Let me lend a hand. If there are five content technology trends that you need to focus on, it should be these:

1. 360° websites are the new ‘digital destinations’

Through travel, we develop meaningful connections to people and places, far beyond just business relationships. On the flipside, business travel is a big environmental and financial issue for many organisations. And PwC calculated that 90% of its carbon emissions are a byproduct of business travel, it’s a familiar story for organisations of any size.

In 2020, business travel was replaced mostly by Zoom and Teams meetings. It brought people together virtually as tiled faces on a screen, yet “destination” was still the missing link in our digital transition.

Enter 360° browser based desktop immersive experiences.

Thanks to tools like Space, 360° panoramas built from photography or imagined CGI worlds become interactive digital destinations – with embeddable hotspots, videos, even video chat.

When they needed to show a prospective investor around a factory, AkzoNobel took virtual visitors from around the world to Northumberland without a plane ticket.

Meanwhile, IHG could train their 13,000 General Managers globally by putting their training course inside a real-life interconnected hotel that everyone could access from their laptops.

360° websites mean businesses can create their own interactive open worlds for whatever use they desire. It’s an exciting, brand-new dimension for digital pioneers to make their own.

2. Interactive browser-based experiences are conversion magnets

A standard scrolling landing page is like a bowl of bran flakes: mostly functional, always dull, never satisfying. No one remembers a “great” bowl of Kellogg’s All-Bran.

In the world of bland, an interactive webpage is the weekend fry-up that our aching heads deserve.

Interactive webpages demand to be clicked. That’s down to their WebGL technology – code that renders 2D and 3D objects in the browser with effects that just weren’t possible before.

Whether you’re narrating the story of your brand or presenting your product, you invite audiences into your world.

From just a web browser, your user can burst 3D product models wide open, uncovering hidden content innovation as they tap and scroll. Or, open the doors to explore a panoramic virtual tour of your business – anywhere in the world, anytime.

Even better? As code gets compiled and browsers become brainier, the cost of building experiences will continue to tumble. An interactive experience is truly the breakfast of champions: it’s a real one to watch as the ultimate ‘platform’ is a modern day browser with all of the data analytics that a connected browser offers.

3. The rise and rise of animation

Filming wasn’t easy in 2020, with most options taken off the table in the first half of the year. But in its absence, animated video production skyrocketed to a monumental trajectory – and it shows no sign of stopping.

Shorter lead times and remote resource accessibility are pretty big feathers in the animation cap. You may have noticed the huge increase in animation for TV adverts this year and the whimsically-wonderful John Lewis advert cycles through a plethora of different animation styles to tell its story.

In animation, anything goes. No live-actors, no sets, no logistical nightmares: the world is yours to invent. We can feast our eyes on vivid, exciting content that’s unique to our organisations and tailored to brand styling and ethos. That means it’s goodbye to generic B-roll of men shaking hands and hello to carefully crafted animation that stands for something.

Animation itself is going through its own experimental phase right now. Our own award-nominee, Zendesk Morning Show, was a triumph of content innovation: remotely-generated live action content fused together with animation. It’ll be interesting to see how organisations use animation in 2021 and beyond.

4. The emergence of Augmented Reality in the mainstream

Beyond the QR code revival, the world is ready for AR to hit the bigtime. We’ve had the tech for a while, but Apple CEO Tim Cook thinks augmented reality is going to be the single biggest tech development over the next 10 years.

AR “will pervade our entire lives,” says Cook. Apple introduced the first AR iPhone game, The Machines, in their 2018 keynote to show what then-modern smartphones were capable of.

Our world is a couple of years more advanced. 5G’s arrived and we’ve seen augmented reality bring both concerts and Kevin Bacon to global audiences. As one of 2020’s side-effects, the pandemic has accelerated digital shopping habits by about 5 years. It means that businesses have the immediate potential to demonstrate products and create personalised immersive experiences at scale, in real-time.

Augmented Reality is a sweet spot for B2B brands, too. We helped industrial thread company Coats build an AR experience to showcase their product range while making interactive AR posters for Unilever to engage their employees in a different dimension.

5. Virtual Reality is getting better, cheaper, more mobile

Virtual Reality is the ultimate immersion experience. If there was ever a medium to hook a potential lead and let audiences literally roam free and interact with your brand, it’s this one.

Once upon a time, Virtual Reality was a pair of clunky goggles – hooked up with a long wire to a tower PC – accompanied by an all-too-real price tag. Nobody could roll these out at scale, so they didn’t.

Then came Cardboard. Designed for the low-end, the headset is a piece of folded cardboard that users plonk their devices into. The rough-and-ready approach opened up the VR world to anybody with a smartphone. It works, but hardly an elegant solution.

We did not lose hope. VR, after long last, has finally reached its Goldilocks stage. The ‘just right’ solution – Oculus Go – is cheaper, untethered, powerful. Now, we can let audiences manipulate worlds that are computer-generated, photographic or filmed in 360°. And this also makes it very easy to convert a desktop based 360° world into VR as the heavy lifting has already been done.

We used this combination for an immersive project for Cory Riverside Energy. It helped them showcase their business to a global investor audience.

That’s a lot of content innovation to take in.

The potential is super high for interactive content tech, and there’s a huge opportunity for brands to make a splash as an early adopter.

TAILORED FOR YOU

Join our content technology workshop

We run a workshop to help innovators in the business world learn the facts of immersive and interactive content: the four emerging content technologies that own the attention span. It’s a 40 minute session – or, if time is tight – we run 15 minute 1-2-1 sessions over a virtual coffee. Sign up here.

We’re always available on hello@vismedia.agency so if you have any questions at all you can always ask away and one of our exceptionally friendly team will respond sharpish.

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LATEST WORKSHOP: The four emerging content technologies that own the attention span
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