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Is point-and-click communication in danger of becoming extinct? Touch and gesture input methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated with each new generation of technology, to the point where innovators are working to get rid of screens altogether. As IEEE Spectrum has noted, "Today, we control our electronic world by touch — we tap, we swipe, we pinch and zoom." Already, communications are increasingly voice-based and have even begun to move into immersive formats like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

 

What might corporate communications look like beyond the screen, and how can you begin to prepare now for the possibilities of the future?

The evolution from point-and-click to gestures

Not long ago, the way users communicated with computers was simple. When they saw an item they wanted to interact with, they clicked a link that took them to the next step in the digital experience.

 

Now, with 77 percent of the population owning smartphones and almost half owning tablets, electronic communications have shifted to touch screens. With that shift, we've begun to interact with digital worlds in a whole new way: Communications are more visual and more physical, providing deeper engagement and immediacy.

Preparing for the future beyond click

As you develop a strategy that moves beyond point-and-click communications, the way your communications are conceptualized, designed and delivered needs to develop, too. Here's a closer look at some of the factors to consider.

 

Understand how gestures change communications design: When your users experience communications in a digital-first environment, it impacts the way you design your communications. It's possible to make your communications more gesture-friendly overall by:

  • Creating text that's less dense and breaking up long paragraphs into individual sections.
  • Finding visual ways to share the stories you're telling. For example, could your company's CEO record a five-minute update video instead of — or to accompany — the quarterly memo that is sent out?
  • Increasing engagement through interactivity. Encourage people to click interactive elements on an infographic, play a video or pinch to zoom in on the details of a rich photograph. Leverage this format to be more creative in the way you approach storytelling and communications with a wide range of audiences.
  • Testing each piece of communication you publish — from your website to your company's intranet — for compatibility with a variety of different mobile devices.

Think ahead to voice-driven communications: Voice-based communications are already taking many digital interactions beyond the screen. Mobile device users are turning to voice queries to search for information on Google. In fact, Search Engine Land reports that voice-based inquiries comprise 20 percent of searches, and that number is climbing. In addition, Google Home, Amazon's Alexa and a whole new generation of devices are allowing users to issue voice commands to search for information, play music, interact with smart homes and perform a variety of other tasks. Preparing for voice-based communications includes:

  • Moving away from keyword-based searches to a more conversational format as you develop information architecture and the way your pieces are written. Users are moving away from rigid keyword-based searches and toward asking natural-language questions that make sense to them. So, research long-tail keywords when considering the content you are publishing.
  • Developing a content strategy that focuses on questions and answers. Increasingly, this will become the norm. For example, instead of assuming users will search for "health insurance acupuncture coverage," it's time to begin crafting content that assumes they'll ask, "Does my health insurance cover acupuncture?"
  • Exploring how chatbots can help deliver communications, gather information for standardized processes and answer basic questions, providing high-touch experiences at scale.

Immersive formats

Immersive formats like VR, AR and holographic projections are providing a new way to communicate with employees, investors and customers. Many of today's devices rely on some combination of gesture, voice and optics to move users through an experience. IEEE Spectrum notes that more sophisticated technologies are on the way, using infrared, ultrasound and other approaches to make our interactions with digital environments more organic. Corporate communications professionals may want to explore:

  • Using immersive formats to help investors, the financial media and others more intimately understand different stages of the experience.
  • Creating one-to-one communications between executives and employees through immersive experience design.
  • Showcasing day-in-the-life types of communications for prospective employees and recruiting activities.

The shift from point-and-click communications is changing the way content is developed. It's also opening up possibilities for higher levels of engagement and more creative communications formats. Corporate communications professionals who master the challenges and opportunities presented by voice-based communications, gesture for mobile and immersive storytelling will be well-positioned to capture audiences' attention and take their message into the future.

 

Download our .futurology report to see why marketers need to carefully consider the way a user will engage with their communications in the future.

Liz Alton writes about technology, marketing and business for enterprise audiences. She's a Forbes contributor and her writing has been published in Inc, USA Today, Entrepreneur, the Huffington Post, Mic, Harvard Business Review blogs and the WSJ. She holds an MBA and a BA in journalism, and is completing a masters in Journalism at Harvard.

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