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3 Trends for 2015: Digital B2B Experiences

May 14, 2015 / By Ryan SchulzKalev PeeknaNate Denton

In order to help our clients stay ahead of the curve, we are constantly on the hunt for inspiring examples of innovative techniques that are gaining traction and having an impact on digital design. One North believes that looking ahead is the best way to ensure that the work we are doing now will have a measurable impact. We’ve compiled a list of three trends to look out for in 2015.

1. Create immersive experiences.
Your website is on the front lines of telling your organization’s story. It’s time to dive deeper.
As Wi-Fi connections become more readily available, mobile signals become stronger and all of our devices become more intelligent, the divide between digital experiences and entertainment will continue to narrow. This has been true for a while in the B2C space, but the B2B space is rapidly catching up. Learning what motivates and engages your primary audiences will soon become a business differentiator. Brands and organizations that continue to look at their digital presence as a glorified brochure will be left behind. Those who evolve first will have the competitive advantage.

We’ve brought together two compelling examples of powerful immersive experiences that begin to blur the lines between edutainment and thought leadership. It’s about more than content strategy. Look for how all of these sites leverage intelligent perspectives on relevant issues to capture the audience and push them through the entire digital experience.

Fibersensing

Fibersensing.com

This site features large backgrounds and images that pull the user in. The opening screen immediately orients and trains you to expect the unexpected, both in the navigation and microinteractions. Each screen that follows presents a single, focused element commanding the user’s complete attention. Scrolling and clicking elicits a variety of interactions that are constantly surprising even as they become more familiar. What’s more, the story arcs in the site start with broader business contexts and then highlight the benefits of particular product lines before leading to details. This offers a compelling experience that allows even novices to navigate the site without exhausting them.

extraordinary.pwc.com

extraordinary.pwc.com

This campaign microsite from professional services powerhouse PWC creates a compelling linear path that tells PWC’s deep, rich story in an entertaining way that really keeps the user clicking. Simple on-boarding hints at each stage propel users through, making it easy to know what to do next. If a user wants to skip around, there is a quick navigation bar just a click away at the top of the page. Every content element on the page has been considered, creating a B2B marketing experience that feels truly enjoyable and easy.

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

CMAP

Who says a municipal website can’t be compelling? Using big, bold, stylized imagery and linear storytelling, the site pushes users through a series of conversations around the topic of Urban Planning in Chicago. Approachable and memorable data visualization experiences are punctuated with custom tools and beautiful design. The result is an experience you’d be excited to share with almost anyone.

2. Deploy and echo.
Cutting through the noise requires choreographed multi-channel marketing that begins with digital.
An organization’s website can no longer be seen as a stand-alone communications tactic. It must be at the center of your communications ecosystem. It is likely the very first place that most stakeholders will engage with your brand in a meaningful way. Those first experiences will color every other interaction that potential employees or clients will have with your organization. Learning how to make your site the center of your efforts will not only make you more efficient, but it will make you more consistent.

Here are two examples from two very different companies who use digital as the centerpiece of their communications and marketing worlds. Each one has a unique strategy when it comes to what they want site visitors to do, and they make it very clear as to how they can contribute. These sites act more like social networks than like commercial ventures…and users like it.

McKinsey & Company: Trending in Digital

McKinsey & Company

McKinsey’s microsite, launched earlier last year, offers a single-page view of the world of digital that cuts across a variety of channels. Real-time updates help users understand the contours of the conversation as it evolves. Seeing the live interaction as it is taking place around the globe invites and entices users to jump in and participate. This kind of experience could only be made possible on the web. Easy-to-remember hashtags stick with users as they migrate, but always echo the initial experience.

Nike+

Nike+

With this subtly genius site, Nike is essentially saying “the way you use our products is more important than purchasing our products.” It’s a bold statement for a global brand with such a loyal following. This site works to connect runners as they’re running, promoting the running lifestyle first and Nike’s shoes second. It’s a win for the brand and a win for the bottom line, all wrapped up in a digital experience you can feel good about being a part of. This isn’t just a social site for social’s sake. It’s social to compel users to be healthy and stay fit. It helps you establish, track and achieve goals alongside the encouragement of a global community.

3. Curate an experience.
This is the era of personalization. Everything is customized and at your fingertips.
The internet is a much smarter tool that it was even just a few years ago. The amount of information that you can track and learn about visitors to your site can help you customize aspects of your site experience just for them. As with most designed solutions, there are a variety of ways that this information can be used and an even wider array of personalization techniques to consider.

News organizations were quick to apply these techniques in the form of content playlists, but seeing how enterprise companies deploy these techniques to promote thought leadership and other relevant pieces of content has been fascinating to watch. Here are a few of our favorites:

Iq.intel.com

Iq.intel.com

Intel’s Innovation Everywhere site is a powerful brand-forward site that entertains and informs while connecting users to a variety of pieces of relevant content. Subtle content playlists appear along the side of each story, and as users reach the bottom of each piece of content, a new list appears. The fact that the entire site is responsively designed should be of no surprise, but the way they pace content and slide in relevant videos and photos makes each piece of content that much more rich as you scroll.

Conclusion
These trends overall signal a much needed push away from static, brochure-ware websites. Technology has evolved so much that with a bit of planning and a deep understanding of what drives the variety of audiences visiting a site, there is no reason why almost any organization can’t leverage at least one of these trends to improve a customer experience and bolster your brand. First impressions can sometimes make all the difference.

Interested in learning more about digital marketing trends? Explore our three-part webinar series on how a digitally connected client environment alters the relationships between B2B businesses and their customers.

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Ryan Schulz
Managing Director, Brand & Experience Design

As Managing Director of Brand and Experience Design, Ryan Schulz is responsible for making sure clients’ true character is represented in everything his team does: messaging, brand, user experience, visual design and front-end experiences. With over 15 years in brand consulting, he helps clients break through the communication clutter that plagues the world of professional services.

  •  Favorite color: Greenish
  •  Favorite breakfast food: Breakfast tacos

Kalev Peekna
Managing Director, Chief Strategist

Kalev Peekna is the Chief Strategist at One North, leading the Digital Strategy team. He brings a cross-platform, user-focused approach to innovations in brand development, design, data analysis and technology, and helps clients apply those innovations to their strategic aims.

  • If I were a vegetable: I would be broccoli. Because I have always wanted someone to call me “cruciferous.” 
  • Most unusual job: Cocktail bartender at a Cabaret

Nate Denton
Managing Director, Creative Services

Nate is One North’s Managing Director of Creative Services, responsible for delivering strategic interactive experiences to clients. Something you may not know about Nate: he performed stand-up comedy with the same group as comedy rockstar and SNL cast member, Fred Armisen.

  • If I were a vegetable: I'd be Corn, because I keep it poppin’.
  • What you wanted to be when you were little: A Creative Director at a Digital Agency in Chicago. Or a rapper.
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