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The Coolest Tools for Digital Storytelling: an overview

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Fig. — 
Immersive Experience Microsoft, Schiphol - The Netherlands
October 31, 2021
 — 
Storytelling
We’ll help you become remarkable by embracing the power of technology. It's with this exact attitude we’ll aim to keep you ahead in our ever-changing world. At Purple, we focus on getting you there through next-level immersive experiences for you, your clients, customers and employees.

Please. Anything but Powerpoint.

You’ve got a great brand story to tell. But actually capturing people’s attention is hard. Without getting the attention and engagement of the audience, you’re transmitting - but no one is listening.

Powerpoint presentations just don’t cut it. They have a niche when it comes to reviewing gritty details further along the road, but they’re just not effective when it comes to persuading or illustrating how something works in practice. There are better tools for this.

Digital storytelling is an incredibly powerful way of reaching your audience’s hearts and minds. However it takes an investment of time and money to create digital stories - so it needs to be on-target every time.

In this article, we look at the coolest, most effective tools for extending your digital storytelling to every possible customer touchpoint. More importantly, we’re going to look at how these are most effective with a holistic strategy that guarantees digital storytelling success.

Belevingsruimte, Interpolis, Tilburg - The Netherlands


Why is Digital Innovation important?

First, what is Digital Innovation? You’ll get different answers depending on who you ask, but one thing is clear; becoming more digital is a survival trait for any business. The usefulness and adaptability of digital technology means it is becoming a part of everyday life, even in traditionally ‘low-tech’ industries like agriculture, construction and forestry.

Ultimately, our growing relationship with digital has three main effects that matter for businesses:

  • We’re using digital media and digital tools more often
  • We’re more distracted (it’s harder to grab attention)
  • There’s more data being collected/available (to inform decisions)

These three effects can be resources for a company that is on track with its digital innovation. The increased use of digital media and tools means there are more potential touchpoints. This translates to more opportunities for customer contact.

The fact that we’re more ‘distracted’ reflects just how busy we are. Every moment of our waking and sleeping lives is occupied. Our consciousness is effectively split across different realities: the present moment, the spoken conversation we’re having right now, the conversation with a colleague via app, the email we’re composing on the laptop, the list of tasks we need to achieve that day (the future) - and probably more things besides.

The result is that we no longer have quiet moments when we’re receptive to traditional messaging. Even if we’re watching TV, there’s a good chance we’re thinking about something else.

So, how is this even a resource? Isn't this just a challenge? If we recognize that the challenge is mostly our audience’s, we can see opportunities to make their stressful lives simpler, easier and better. This leads us to the third effect: more data. This helps us meet those challenges.

We’re collecting data at an astounding rate – sometimes faster than we can use it. This is one of our greatest resources. It can inform strategies with strong personal appeal to our target markets. It helps us define and create better products and services, and it helps us to show those things in a relatable way using personalization. Personalization is what makes digital storytelling most effective (we’ll come back to this later).

When we take these three effects together, we see that we have excellent opportunities to engage with a digital-friendly audience:

  • They’re using digital technology constantly
  • They’re receptive to solutions that help with their problems
  • We have the data to target our digital strategy with a high degree of accuracy

A company that embraces digital innovation is in the best position to engage with the increasingly digital customer. Now let’s look at how to move beyond the traditional approach and discover which tools we can use to execute our digital storytelling strategy.

Using digital storytelling software and digital tools to attract and maintain customers.

It’s important to figure out which tools are most effective for your specific objective. The best tool for accelerating the sales process is likely to be different to the best tool for attracting customers or nurturing the customer relationship. You may also use the same tool in a completely different way. This is when good digital storytelling software becomes really useful, because it enables you to deploy entirely different strategies with the same equipment. However, each digital tool has its own strengths and limitations.

Digital storytelling is frequently used for sales purposes, so many of the common tools and story styles are geared towards this goal. But what about the engagement process? How can we nurture a customer relationship with the right digital storytelling tools?

With a carefully chosen solution, you can always find innovative ways to insert yourself into your customer’s own busy story.

You can’t change their current trajectory, so you need to meet them in the middle and intercept them where you know they’ll be. Your digital storytelling software can help with this by applying the right personalized story at the right time. Interactive signage can be really useful here, especially if you can apply the right level of personalization.

To start with, your approach can be ‘information-light’. Your main goal is to make them ‘prick up their ears’ - to look up from their phone and notice you. You can be economical with your messaging to make sure it’s really relevant. Brand colors (yours or theirs) and appropriate music can be very effective at setting a mood and engaging interest.

Consider the context of your message too; when are your target audience going to be most receptive to the message? As is so often the case, it isn’t so much about the tool but how you use it.

Using digital tools to assist the sales process.

The positive effects of digital storytelling in the sales process are well-known. There are many reasons why, but one is the fact that most of us struggle to visualize something in our imagination to some extent. According to some research, around 70% of us are not naturally adept at visualization, and 3% can’t visualize at all. If we’re distracted, you can forget it – it just isn’t going to happen. To overcome this, we need to be shown something to be able to actually see it, and understand what it means.

Digital storytelling tools for sales can convey a lot more information than traditional methods, and they are a perfect opportunity for customers to actually see your offering in action. Even better if they see It in a context they recognize as similar to their own.

Fully-immersive storytelling solutions are great for putting the customer at the center. They can function as a ‘portal to an alternate dimension’ – one where their problems are visibly solved by your offering. If you can make the experience interactive – to get the customer to deduce your solution by interacting with the problem via the immersive experience, even better. But you don’t need to break the bank to secure a deal – you just need to show the customer what they need to see.

Whatever your goal, digital tools can create the right environment to listen, learn, and respond. The essential ingredient however is always relatability for the customer.



Top tools for using your Digital Storytelling software effectively.

Immersive Experience Room

This is a fully enclosed space with screens on every wall. These can be made interactive with touch-sensitive screens that adapt the digital story to the customer’s input. The value of the Immersive Experience Room is that it’s 100% distraction-resistant. Literally no one is checking their phone during an Immersive Experience.

You have an unparalleled setting for giving your customer a memorable experience, and one that has the capacity to adapt and show customized scenes that are more relatable.

This kind of tool makes complexity into something comprehensible – because it’s an experience. It’s easier to generate an emotional context too. This is especially useful in certain sectors like fashion, or where emotional contexts are a primary driver of sales.

Virtual Studio (XR)

This is a very suitable solution for many corporate contexts because Virtual Studios are so versatile. Because of the way this technology blends with the physical world, this is actually a high-level XR experience. A virtual studio can be used to turn Webinars into slick interactive productions, or used to collaborate with clients to explore options. It’s a single piece of equipment that can switch mode in the blink of an eye.

Once Frankie’s finished her webinar, Tomas can step right in with some new clients and explore custom solutions for their needs. When the meeting is finished, the studio can revert to another function. Because it’s in an open space, it has a high potential utilization rate, which contributes to a great ROI.

The digital virtual technology used in a Virtual Studio is a big step up from ‘green-screen’ methods, and they enable in-person interaction too. This kind of tool can bring a product to life without taking up an entire room. With the Hyro platform, there’s total versatility to re-use content you already have.

It’s a powerful piece of digital storytelling software that can turn an information-based presentation into an interactive experience.

Sensors

These show a lot of promise, but we’re not quite there yet with the flexibility or depth of function.

The best approach is always to show a personalized story, but most sensors are quite simple – detecting only presence or movement. This makes personalization tough.

Sensors that can detect the actual person and respond with a targeted message are much better – but there’s some controversy about just how personalized sensors should be. Sensors paired with AI that can deduce gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity have been developed in recent years, but most people find these disturbing and the potential for misuse is high. We don’t recommend you get this personal – especially based on superficialities.

Another approach is to leverage your data with a phone or app-based system that customers can opt-in to. This way you can use a sensor that detects a customer who lingers near a certain item or display, and send them an offer by email later or on the spot via a push notification. You can also use this to change a digital story being shown on a nearby screen to reflect someone more like them, using a persona-based approach. This can be done with a sensor that detects the phone using Location Data, Bluetooth, or NFC, or using facial recognition of registered customers.

Interactive signage

Signage is an understated point of contact that people have with companies and other organizations all the time.

In most situations, signs are static objects that only ever say one thing. However they can be used more effectively when they are more interactive. Greeting guests with more personalized messages (without being obtrusive) can help them to feel more welcome, and there are so many points along the customer’s journey that can become opportunities for contact.

Interactive signs can intercept your customer in practically any location; imagine the different stops a client makes on their way to your office. Think about how you can make these as dynamic as possible, and how you can make these useful without being creepy.  

MR, and VR

If you can’t take the customer into your world with immersive tech, then try bringing your message into their world using mixed reality/extended reality/virtual reality. Tools like Microsoft’s Hololens can be a unique way to get your customer to interact with products and enable them to really play with the possibilities. This is a great way to foster engagement, but it can also be used to drive the sales process.

You don’t need to use special goggles to give customers a mixed or extended reality experience. Think about how this might be achieved with an easy-to-use smartphone app – this is already being used to drive consumer sales in the fashion industry, as well as niche B2B sales in certain sectors. As this technology becomes more refined and capable, more companies will start to adopt a mixed and extended-reality component in their sales process.

Getting the right balance: Achieving Personalization without getting too personal.

We know that the most successful interactions are ones that are tailored to the audience. Giving someone an experience that is relevant and relatable is clearly better than a generic experience that doesn’t really relate to anyone in particular.

However, it’s always important to strike the right balance with personalization.

Consider the mysterious case of Sherlock Holmes. Whenever a client would come to him with a case, Sherlock would delight in showing off his skills of deduction with chillingly accurate (and detailed) estimations of their personal lives. Yet - strangely enough – people rarely seemed impressed. While Sherlock’s demonstration showed how skilled he is at deduction, it mostly demonstrated how badly he understood people. They don’t like it and it’s creepy.

When you deploy your personalization, remember Sherlock. Make sure your approach isn’t too personal. Your customer doesn’t want to be singled-out, given a hard sell, or see pictures of their children or most recent vacation (scraped from their Facebook page).

Instead, show them a story about someone very much like them, based on a detailed persona.  A testimonial from someone who runs a similar business, or operates in a similar sector (or someone who has overcome similar generation-specific challenges) - will be much more effective than either a general message or an excessively-personalized one. As a general rule, you’re looking to give an experience that someone like your audience would relate to.

As we have seen, there are some amazing tools for deploying your brand digital story. They can help us reach our customers wherever they happen to be – but only if they’re used the right way. The Hyro digital storytelling software makes it easier to use digital storytelling tools more effectively, because it can achieve this granular level of personalization and customization.

Frequently Asked Questions.

What makes an Immersive Experience so effective? When you tell your digital story with an immersive experience, you’re putting the audience at the center of your story. They become a part of the journey, and see your brand story as a part of their own experience. No one checks their phone in an immersive experience - their attention is totally focused on what you want them to see.
Why should I use digital storytelling software?
What makes digital storytelling powerful is the ability to adapt to the audience, zeitgeist, or current events. This flexibility ensures that your story hits its target. Without digital storytelling software that enables the rapid switching between media elements, you’re stuck with the same old story playing on a loop. Digital storytelling software helps you to create fresh experiences from different media elements; weaving something coherent from a patchwork of ideas.

What is the most affordable digital storytelling tool?
Digital storytelling can come in all shapes and sizes, including very affordable options. We can advise on solutions that meet your requirements without breaking the bank, however what makes a tool successful is when it’s the right tool for the job. This means looking closely at what you want to achieve, then seeing how to do this most effectively. We have a number of lease options available, and we can advise you on these.
Which digital storytelling tool is the most impactful?
Any digital storytelling tool can have a significant impact if it’s being used in the right way. It depends on what is going to have the most impact on your audience. The most ‘broad-spectrum’ option is definitely an immersive experience room, which everyone finds captivating - but you still need to use it right.
How can I start to use digital storytelling?
Before you start, you should ask yourself what you want to achieve. This will then lead you to identify who your audience is - then you can really get to work! We’re happy to advise on the possibilities, and we have a range of options for getting started. Our Hyro platform makes it easy to create digital stories for any purpose.

Credits
Written by:

Joost Rueck

Managing Director
 at 
Purple
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