Part of being in the video innovation business is needing to explain the vocabulary involved. Because video itself is undergoing a digital transformation, new terms litter the landscape, and even if you’re an old pro in the media business, it’s best to get your bearings up front. 

First up is video commerce: at Axonista, these are the solutions we’re probably best known for, and our customers include giants like QVC

Video commerce can be thought of as the newest generation of e-commerce, based around interactive video as the primary medium of engagement with shoppers. It breaks into two types: shoppable video (either pre-recorded, or a livestream replay), and livestream shopping. Both types hook audiences with enthusiastic presenters who engage shoppers, but only livestreams are immediate, making viewer comments part of the show.

Then there’s the umbrella term: interactive video — that’s any video experience that evokes an emotion in the viewer, and allows them to act on that feeling, then and there.

And here’s the thing: interactive video isn’t just about commerce

The new medium of interactive video that our platform enables isn’t just for retailers. In fact, there’s a whole world of possibilities out there for anyone whose business uses video content.

That includes traditional media companies, such as TV networks, film studios, publishers and news broadcasters, but also more recently global brands like hotel groups, fashion houses, well-known makers of energy drinks…just about anyone who’s recognized video’s capability for emotive storytelling. 

Where interactive video is now, and what’s next

Think about what video has been, since its origins — a rectangular box displaying moving pictures. Even super-modern, digital-first video destinations like YouTube offered an essentially passive experience: pausing and fast forwarding were about the extent of the viewer’s controls. 

True interactivity is only really becoming available to storytellers now, thanks to enabling platforms. You can think about interactivity in three tiers:

1. Decouple graphics from video

Have you ever struggled to watch video on your phone that’s originally intended for a larger-screen format? Graphics are tiny and barely readable, and the video floats mid-screen with black bars top and bottom. A first step towards interactivity is decoupling video from graphical overlays. Instead, treat the picture and the data that drives graphics as separate streams. 

You can then render a viewing experience that’s right for the viewer’s device. Pare back the additional info, so mobile viewers aren’t overwhelmed. Dynamically resize video to portrait, or keep it in landscape and use the otherwise wasted space top and bottom to show data and graphics. 

Decoupling video and graphics also opens the door to customization – newcomers to a sport, for instance, could see basic stats, while experts could be shown detailed info suited to them. 

2. Make graphical elements tappable

Once you’ve rendered video separately, treating graphics as a distinct overlay, it becomes possible to make graphical elements tappable.

A news screen playing the top story of the hour, for example, could have scrolling headlines at the bottom that users can activate: swipe back to see a headline they just missed, or tap a story to open and learn more. The possibilities are only limited by what your innovation teams can dream up.

3. Offer viewers maximum engagement

Why not take it up another level, and let viewers do more than just consume more content? Offer a “buy” button, or encourage them to sign up with their email to join an activist cause. Here lies some of the most exciting, undiscovered country of interactive video: a space where the lines between a mobile app and a pure passive video experience are blurred. 

Truly interactive video can change the world

Organizations already pushing the envelope here include WaterBear, who use the Axonista platform to encourage environmental activism within and around the documentary films they host. 

WaterBear has a fantastic library of video content focused on saving the planet, all of which is made by passionate storytellers seeking to educate and evoke an emotional response in their viewers. 

With a traditional viewing experience, the only route that viewers have to act on that emotion is to separately search online, in an effort to find a way to support organizations that are helping the cause. Since these activities are disconnected, the action may happen much later, or not at all. 

With interactive video, the viewer can be connected directly to the relevant organizations, and the urge can be acted on immediately — whether that is to sign up, to donate, or to volunteer their time, all without leaving the video.

This ability of interactive video to convert viewer intent and emotional response into immediate, meaningful action is something that media companies and storyteller brands the world over can take advantage of. 

It’s okay to not yet know how interactive video will change your world

As well as being a video innovation platform, Axonista is a full-service product innovation agency. We provide our customers with video-first product strategy, design, engineering, and QA support, all the way up to launch. We’re the people who can rapidly take any video-first vision, do discovery work on it with designers, create prototypes, validate with end-users, roll out a beta — and ultimately help to grow and scale world-class video products. 

If this doesn’t sound like how the TV companies of old have operated, that’s because this is new ground that requires a new mindset. Media companies are realizing that the land is shifting beneath them. Networks who once had 100% of the eyeballs now share viewer attention with streamers, including digital natives who know how to innovate continuously. 

Continuous innovation is easier said than done, especially for large organizations, with long histories of success who have felt a burning need to innovate. But it is possible, as Disney has shown with its pivot towards Disney+. Obviously, not everyone has Disney-sized budgets, but innovation can be done by any organization at a level that suits its appetite for investment.

Interactive video is here to stay, and at Axonista we are on a mission to make it a foundational piece of the toolset of modern storytellers. 

Daragh Ward is CTO and co-founder of Axonista, the video innovation platform for product teams. Reach him on Twitter or LinkedIn.