We are all desensitized to unremarkable content. We see it day in and day out. Unless it’s Kristen Bell having a sloth meltdown (or something equally as novel), we tend to ignore it. Passive, vanilla content has ruled the internet for years, mostly driven by link building and bad, unfocused SEO. Unremarkable content has historically enslaved the internet.

But the times, they are a changing. Web users and buyers now demand their expectations be exceeded. One such expectation is convenient, autonomous online shopping. According to Kapost, by 2020 most consumers will be managing their own purchases without interacting with another human. They are already researching products they want and entering the sales funnel much further down than before – all without the help of advertising – so this prediction isn’t all that far-fetched.

You have likely come across stats about content marketing budgets on the rise and the number of B2B and B2C marketers adopting content marketing steadily growing. But what we need to know, then, is how to reach the best audiences with this content and how to turn new audiences into leads and leads into sales. And the answer to that question – no matter your vertical or industry – is interactive content.

Interactive content is content that you don’t passively interact with; you don’t just read or watch it. It’s content with a call to action built in: watch, play, vote, take a picture, find, click, scroll, test, challenge, upload or complete. It’s active and less transient that a blog post, a photo, a video or an infographic. It’s like a happy punch in the face that leaves you wanting to buy the assaulting boxing gloves.

Interactive content has built in ROI for the user. There is a reward for the time the participant spends interacting with it – whether that comes in the form of an experience, relevant information or a discount. In return, you get to hand hold potential customers almost all the way through the buyer journey. This is one hell of a pay off, as this can help you harness user engagement to create new leads, actionable prospects and scale up existing content processes so that your content marketing department starts paying its way.

Emotional Intelligence

Before I go into the types of interactives to use, we should consider what emotions drive our purchasing decisions.

Can interactive content deliver what people want to gain?

Of course you can’t deliver everything (health, self-confidence, improved appearance, great sex, comfort and leisure) but you could focus on one or two of them. Develop a quiz that asks the reader which “incredibly desirable” celebrities they are most like. Or develop a ‘Plan your love life’ flowchart that asks a range of questions and leads them to discover the perfect personality match in a partner.

Can interactive content help people avoid what they don’t want?

Being embarrassed, injured or hurt, disappointed, lost, or forced to take unnecessary risks are not desirable feelings and emotions. Positioning your content as a way to avoid these feelings is a bit of a negative approach, but it’s ultimately for the readers’ benefit and could even serve their need for self-preservation. Examples of this type of content might include an infographic about “How to survive in the Amazon with only a pen, knife and a bell” or an interactive comic that allows the reader to make decisions and take risks on behalf of the character and see the outcome without having to get hurt themselves.

Interactive content can help users see themselves.

Sexy, youthful, compassionate, efficient, contemporary, an early adopter, an influencer, strong, intelligent, fashionable – these are all adjectives that consumers like to envision themselves as portraying. But how does a content piece make someone feel any of these things? That’s the challenge – allowing the user to come to the conclusion that they are [insert descriptor here] with a little help and persuasion from you. Help them see how popular they are on their social accounts with a social diagnostic tool that informs them, “You’ve said the word ‘ROFL’ 97568 times since opening your account” or “The term ‘cute’ was used to describe you 100 times last month on twitter – that’s more than any of your friends!”

So what types of interactive content could we be using to aid this buyer behavior and why might they work for us?

1. Interactive microsites

2011’s Take This Lollipop is definitely worth a mention. The purpose of the site is to try to stop kids from posting their personal information on Facebook, so this uses both the human ego and self-preservation to get people to act on the very important message.

This is an incredible interactive content piece that was created by Jason Zada (of Elf Yourself fame) and stared actor Bill Oberst as the Facebook stalker. It had a zero marketing budget and yet gained over 7 million views in a week and was featured in almost every web publication online as well as winning a string of awards.

Emotive triggers: fear, unnecessary risks

Does it trigger an action? Yes, because apart from all its awards and views, it also got many people discussing the importance of information security online (which was the reason for its creation). It certainly made me consider my security settings online.

2. Social Diagnostics

MyFirstTweet is a nice app that mixes new media with nostalgia. It is instantly shareable and lets you see whether your first steps into Twitter were memorable or obnoxious. Unfortunately, Twitter has put a stop to this for the time being, but it was a good idea all the same and could be built upon for other app ideas.

Emotive triggers: nostalgia, self-importance, contemporary, identity

Does it trigger an action? Yes. It triggers an almost unconscious action to discover more about ourselves. Who were we back then, what was important to us and did we say something more profound or funny than our friends or peers.

3. Interactive Infographics

Interactive infographics cover a range of styles, from maps and timelines to basic data visuals and parallax scrolling pieces. I chose Evolution of the Game Console because it’s a simple, yet effective, content piece that works well. This type of interactive content is a bit more product-specific and walks users down the buyer funnel to a purchase. Replace the consoles with modern appliances and put a twist on it (such as ‘best features’) and you’ve got yourself a potential sales pitch that is sharable and could easily lead to sales.

interactive infographic

Emotive triggers: betterment, sex appeal, early adopter, being an influencer

Does it trigger an action? Yes. Curiosity drives us to explore this content. It asks us to scroll, so we scroll. It asks us to click a button, so we click. It is familiar to us, as it mimics the actions we have been taking on websites for the past ten years. It promises us exploration and we seize the opportunity.

4. Interactive graphic novels and comics

I am passionate about stories and spend a fortune on Audible and downloadable interactive graphic novels on my iPad. Graphic novels take the user to another place and really get the emotions and adrenaline going.

This Peugeot ad impressed me with its emotive design, music and its sales message. It walks you through each function of the new car using the heroine to demonstrate the car’s sport mode, 4WD and Zev “silent” mode. This type of interactive is rarely used and I would love to see more out there used as cleverly as this.

Click to see full graphic novel.

Emotive triggers: excitement, sex appeal, fun

Does it trigger an action? The piece was covered by a whole host of blogs and publications and certainly captured people’s imaginations. The graphic novel takes users to another environment where the brand has control of what they see and in which order. From here, buyer signals could be captured, product information relayed and a relationship with the user built. Give them more stories, ask them to sign up for a giveaway or to be sent the next novel by email.

5. Flowcharts

Flowcharts can work as a flat graphic or as HTML5. The great thing about a flowchart is that you are allowing the user to explore the content and find their way to the conclusion. Using the same premise as a quiz, flowcharts ask you a series of questions and your answers determine where you end up.

Click to see full flow chart.

Emotive triggers: taste, individuality, youth, identity

Does it trigger an action? I chose the beer style flowchart, as I wanted an example that could potentially lead to sales. If this flowchart’s developers had included clickable conclusions with more info about the types of beer that readers are matched to and where to get them locally, the outcome could be very different.

6. Quizzes or calculators

Even Buzzfeed has been shocked by the attention their online quizzes get, but it isn’t really that surprising considering most people suffer from an identity crisis and are looking to compare themselves to others. Hook this opportunity up to a product and you have a massive sales tool. For this example, I turn to a hero of mine who helped ignite my passion for creative content online: The Oatmeal

Click to see full quiz.

Emotive triggers: fun, youth, early adopter, identity

Does it trigger an action? If you make people laugh and they return to your site time and time again, chances are they will eventually purchase something from you. You even build this into a sales funnel, if people look like they will drop out. We tried something similar with a power tool interactive that continued the fun even when the users click buy. It used humor to take the seriousness out of the situation and show them that we weren’t forcing them into something.


Interactives can – and will – be used to help drive sales. They accomplish this through a variation of different techniques using a whole range of emotive triggers to achieve it. Conversion rates from interactives hover around 40 percent because you give people real value with interactive content – whether it be kudos, a prize, targeted follow-on content or simply making them feel good for a few minutes.