The move toward digital engagement has been years in the making across every industry. When COVID-19 struck, companies had no other choice but to make a dramatic shift toward using digital channels as the primary way to engage with prospects and customers. And webinars played a critical role in keeping companies and their buyers connected.
According to our annual ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report 2021, the number of webinars increased dramatically, 162% last year. Attendance nearly quadrupled to more than 60 million people with audiences engaging with over 61 million hours of content.
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Now after more than 18 months since the pandemic started, companies are realizing that digital-first engagement isn’t just the new normal, it’s a better way. Organizations are increasing pipeline, conversion rates, and deal sizes through digital engagement – at a fraction of the cost of in-person tactics and events.
In fact, three-quarters of marketers say webinars have a direct impact on pipeline and revenue, according to a supplementary survey to the benchmarks report. And nearly 90% cite webinars as their top digital channel in creating qualified sales leads, due in part to the audience insights, engagement data, and buying signals they generate.
It’s clear that webinars remain core to the marketing and sales cycle for many organizations. But not every digital experience is created equal. Analysis of over 100,000 webinars shows there are three best practices to consider that can strengthen your digital-first engagement initiatives, including using more video, on-demand content, and personalized engagement.
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Incorporate Video to Drive Engagement
It’s historically been a challenge for marketers to get audiences to tune into a digital experience and once there, keep them engaged. Conventional thinking says deliver bite-sized content because audience attention spans are shrinking.
But 2020 revealed something different. Attendees spent nearly an hour in the webinars they joined, showing that if the digital experience is relevant and dynamic audiences will stay engaged. One way marketers are increasing audience engagement and viewing times is by using more video. Two-thirds of all live webinar experiences last year featured some type of video, a 30-point increase from the previous year.
Video is becoming essential in digital experiences, not only adding an interactive element to webinars, but also delivering on audiences’ demand for more active two-way interactions. More companies are using video for customers and prospects to engage in one one-to-one discussions with sales reps, participate in group meetings, and network with their peers.
By incorporating some form of video into webinars – from webcam presentations to integrated video clips and studio produced video content – marketers can turn passive viewing into more active audience engagement experiences. Video opens the door to give audiences the immersive, interactive experiences they crave and, more importantly, provide marketers invaluable insights on their potential buyers.
Deliver More On-Demand Content
The business world is at the center of an irreversible trend – more B2B buyers are doing their own research and self-educating online before they even talk to a sales rep. The Netflix era is influencing B2B audiences’ desire for more binge-worthy content. Prospects and customers have greater expectations to find the information they need online and consume it at their own pace.
This creates a big opportunity for marketers to deliver a one-stop destination for buyers to engage and consume all the content they want, when they want it. It’s why on-demand webinars spiked in popularity last year, giving audiences convenient access to content on their own terms.
Live-only webinar attendance fell four points to 53% while on-demand viewing increased four points to 43%. And nearly half of all webinar attendees watched webinars on-demand. These trends see no signs of slowing down as more marketers make their content available beyond a live event to better accommodate audiences with on-demand webinars. A majority (58%) surveyed say they are now creating webinars that go straight to an on-demand session.
On-demand webinars give marketers more flexibility to open up their experiences to global audiences because they’re no longer constrained by location and time zones. It can often lead to higher attendance and more focused audiences, creating even more opportunities for marketers to collect valuable behavioral insights such as viewing times and content consumed which can help them further understand audience needs.
Personalize Engagement Through Multiple Touchpoints
When given the choice, audiences will choose two-way interactions and experiences that are worthwhile and get more personalized over time. It’s why marketers are embracing engagement and personalization tools to better connect with attendees on a one-to-one level. Delivering more engaging and interactive webinars was the number one priority among marketers surveyed.
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Two-way engagement during a webinar empowers audiences to actively participant and shape their own experience, whether that’s by asking a question, voting in a poll, or networking. And marketers are finding ways to creatively weave these opportunities into their digital experiences.
Almost 90% of webinars last year included Q&A, making it the most-used form of two-way engagement. Simple tactics like this, as well as providing resource lists and surveys, help audiences stay engaged and connected during webinars while also giving marketers deeper insights about attendees, their interests, and the content they consumed.
This behavioral data can then be used to drive future personalized interactions. Marketers can drive the next best action with individual attendees, including a tailored piece of content or a meeting with a sales rep to keep their customer journey going.
Maximize Your Digital-First Engagement Future
Digital experiences have proven to be more valuable in engaging prospects and customers, generating leads, capturing data, and driving revenue. Leading organizations are realizing a greater return on customer engagement than they ever did with in-person events. Because of this, most marketers would tell you there’s no going back.
Digital engagement is enabling marketing and sales teams to spend more time with their prospects and customers. And last year showed that the webinars remain a critical element to marketers’ plans and the strongest channel in creating qualified sales leads.
Digital-first approaches are here to stay. Every marketer can take their webinar programs to the next level with video, on-demand content, and more personalized engagement. Doing so can deliver more engaging experiences that capture buyer attention, drive deeper engagement, and convert more prospects to buyers.
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