Illustration for an article on viewer experience
June 4, 2019 by Kristal Felea

From user experience to viewer experience: Why you need to make VX a priority

Video marketing has, in the past few years, surged in popularity.

The proliferation of social media channels and growth in video sharing platforms like YouTube have transformed video marketing from an optional nice-to-have into a must-do for reaching audiences.

But the rush to fill our marketing channels with compelling videos has masked an important component of video marketing that many of us have missed: How, and where, people experience video.

That’s why considering the overall viewer experience is no longer optional.

It will be a must-have for content creation for many years to come – one that puts the person viewing the video front and centre.

Putting the audience first

In the early days of the internet, people were frequently the last thing brands considered when developing an online presence. Instead, websites were little more than placeholders; a simple way of telling the world “yes, we are tech-savvy enough to know the importance of a website” without actually designing something that would be useful to the person who was visiting it.

Eventually, though, that changed.

Websites became the main storefronts for brands and the world of digital development adapted to focus on the user experience first. And at the core of it all was people. A website was no longer just something that companies needed to create – it represented who the company was and what they offered in the marketplace. From a strategy standpoint, you needed to understand WHO was coming to your website, why they would come at all and what their motivations were. Detailed user personas would be developed – in-depth research into your target audiences’ needs and challenges, an understanding of how they would view your website and on what type of device. You also needed to think about how people were getting to your site, how your content was organized, and how many clicks it would take before they got to what they were looking for. This all went into developing user flows for the information architecture, likely followed by A/B user acceptance testing to validate.

Websites, in other words, became an essential component of a company’s overall brand and a gateway for customers to engage with it – all because they installed the audience firmly at the centre of the design process.

It’s a transformation that the video creation process now needs to replicate.

Why viewer experience matters

So how do we apply that same concept to video?

I first came across the term “Viewer Experience” or “VX” in an article written for Medium by Yann Lhomme. He explains that VX at a high-level is “strategically thinking about video as a holistic brand experience for your viewers.” In other words, a video isn’t just a tactic. It can be the entrance point to your brand and can provide an opportunity for brands to connect with their audiences in a deeper, more meaningful way.

Much like the massive change to web design thanks to the rise in user experience design, we need to also expand our thinking about how video content is produced and integrated. It all starts with crafting content with intent and strategically thinking about the way it’s produced, how it’s delivered to our audiences and the desired outcome of how we want them to feel or react.

After all, as writer Maya Angelou said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Brands need to take a holistic approach to how their brand essence is reflected in everything they develop – from their products to their marketing materials through to their recruitment initiatives. All of these efforts should be as cohesive as possible to preserve the integrity of the brand itself. It’s not just about the corporate video you posted on your homepage, or the tutorial video you created on how to use your product. There are many other opportunities to integrate branded dynamic moving content, whether that be traditional video or motion graphics animations such as:

  • Animated transitions throughout your website or sales presentations
  • An app loading screen
  • Digital signage and interactive displays in your office or for tradeshows

Video shouldn’t just be listed as a tactic in your marketing plan. It should be carefully considered in your overall customer journey lifecycle for audiences to consume and engage with.

How we can put viewer experience front and centre

Here are five ways we can use viewer experience to better connect with our audiences:

1. Define who we’re trying to reach

Much like in UX strategy, it’s important to define WHO the user (target audience) is and keep them positioned in the centre. In traditional UX, we start with understanding the user flow through your website, starting with the initial contact and continuing through the engagement process through which the user progresses on their way to a goal or conversion. From a viewer experience standpoint, it’s important to think both strategically and more holistically about each interaction your audience will have with your brand and truly understand how they want to consume content and engage with it. Then you can look for opportunities for how video (or other forms of dynamic moving content) can be embedded into that process to guide the viewer throughout the overall audience journey lifecycle.

Example: Perhaps it’s a great way to start off a sales presentation to a potential customer, or a personalized follow-up thank you message after your customer has made a purchase as an opportunity to explain how they can make the most out of their purchase.

2. Build video into the audience journey

Develop and define the audience journey lifecycle into the stages required to go from awareness to advocacy and map out a content strategy that relates to each step. Identify key performance indicators to indicate successful transition along the journey. Consider where you can incorporate video or other dynamic moving content into your content strategy based on your audience research.

3. Think about where your audience is going to be viewing your content

Tailoring video content to the platform your audiences will see or use most (professionally or personally). Through research, make sure you have a solid understanding of their buying or consumption behavior and what channels they consume content through the most.

Example: Maybe your research reveals that a lot of your audience members watch videos on LinkedIn while on the bus to and from work with the sound off. If that’s the case, it might make sense to create videos that don’t rely on sound to tell a story.

4. Sequence your storytelling

Consider sequencing your storytelling across the appropriate channels to build a complementary narrative and diversify your content. Contextual relevance is key, so the messaging you want to get across while you are trying to build awareness or pique interest may very well differ when your audience is ready to convert or make a purchasing decision or when you’re trying to encourage loyalty and customer advocacy. Think about it this way: would you approach someone you just met the same way you would talk to your childhood best friend?

5. Develop a style guide for video/motion content

Develop a visual design system that ties in with your master brand and provides useful branded assets (iconography, transition styles, framing references, on-screen text graphics templates, etc.). This can be supplemental to your main brand book or guidelines as a tool for creators who work with your brand. This will help to ensure brand alignment and consistency cross-platform so that all content works together, and will be a helpful resource whether you are developing digital, video or motion content in-house or working with outside partners (like Banfield).

Kristal Felea is the executive producer and partner at Banfield Agency.

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