Whether they read, watch, or listen, consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to entertainment. There were the early days of “Netflix or Hulu?” but now there are hundreds of options, all eager to provide niche content for a monthly subscription. This creates heightened competition among media and entertainment companies for subscribers and advertising revenue.
This competition creates a new dynamic: media companies must pay closer attention to their consumers’ desires. For decades, it was the distributor’s job to determine the best content for an audience, whether it was watching the evening news, reading the Sunday paper, or listening to one of a handful of radio stations. Now, the consumer has the power, and providers have to work harder to earn their attention and loyalty amidst a highly personalized digital-first experience.
Those that survive will provide a user experience that keeps their audiences coming back. Their strategies will be more than guesswork: they will know, based on data, how users interact with their platform and content and can predict with confidence what will keep them coming back. Amplitude’s Digital Optimization System can give companies these key insights through product analytics, personalization, and experimentation.
1. Identify the Critical Event That Retains More Users
The critical event is the action you want users to perform in order to be counted as truly “active” or “retained.” They’re the actions you want users to repeat every time they use your product. Media and entertainment companies can ask themselves, “How many hours do I need someone to watch?” or “How many articles does someone need to read?” before they are hooked.
Product analytics can uncover that precise moment and show the user behavior that leads up to the critical event. Maybe it’s bingeing a show and starting a second one. Maybe it’s sharing an article. Whatever the path, companies know which users hit the critical event and how often. Product and messaging teams can then collaborate to create the experiences to help other users reach the critical event more quickly and frequently.
Tactics for guiding other users to the critical event can include email campaigns that announce new content to bring users back to the platform. It might also be surfacing the right type of content within the platform most likely to convert a free user to a paying user or providing different onboarding experiences based on some of the initial actions taken by the user.
Companies should also pay close attention to users who are close to ending a free trial if they haven’t yet hit their critical event. While it might be tempting to pressure users into conversion with a warning that “Your free trial is about to end!” that won’t be enough to sway consumers who haven’t yet discovered value in the content. In these instances, extending a free trial gives additional opportunities for users to reach the critical event.
2. Optimize the Product for Conversion and Retention
With so many platforms, the in-app product experience becomes very high stakes. If users struggle to navigate the app or experience frustration with it before reaching the critical event that leads to retention, they’ll simply go elsewhere: 88 percent of users are less likely to visit a website again after a single bad experience.
Established digital industries can attest to how quickly consumers will take their business elsewhere, with cart abandonment rates above 75 percent and 25 percent of mobile apps abandoned after only one use. Drawing users to the platform isn’t enough to turn them into paying customers.
Understand How Users Interact with the Platform
With such high pressure, companies need to keep revisiting how users are spending time on both the platform and with the content. “The biggest challenge that we usually try to help customers with specifically around pathing is figuring out what users do between a conversion point,” says Rachel Herrera, Professional Services Team Lead at Amplitude. Her goal is to help companies understand why conversions are not happening by looking at why users drop off or what bottlenecks they are encountering. This includes asking questions such as:
- How and when are users interacting with the search?
- How and when do users access their next piece of content?
- Do users take actions such as saving content to favorites or sharing?
Amplitude Analytics can answer these questions for both product and content teams, connecting the dots between behavior and key milestones such as conversion and retention.
Amplitude can also uncover issues within the platform that diminish the user experience. French news publisher Le Monde identified that 30 percent of paid subscribers were not able to properly access gated web content just after their subscription. Through Amplitude, the company uncovered the bugs and was able to address them. Subscriptions Director Lou Grasser said, “This is what is most important to us — that our subscribers get the content that they paid for.”
Experiment with Conversion Experiences
With the fast-paced environment of entertainment and media, companies can’t afford to experiment slowly or incrementally. Rather than conducting randomized testing that may not have a clear outcome in the results, companies can use behavioral data to segment customers into groups. Within these groups, A/B testing can uncover the experiences that lead to the highest conversions.
Online magazine Slate successfully launched a paywall, using Amplitude to understand how many users would be eligible under different paywall scenarios, how much traffic might be lost, and what kind of conversion rates Slate might expect. Within a few months, Slate saw a 500 percent increase in conversions and used Amplitude’s data to project future conversion rates and user behavior.
Amplitude Experiment embeds analytics and customer behavior into A/B testing. Not only can companies use Amplitude to experiment with different scenarios around conversions, but also with in-app experiences that increase user retention. NBC found that by tailoring its app homepage to user history, Day 7 retention increased 2x.
By scaling experimentation across the organization, companies can test what matters, whether it is increasing subscriptions, increasing the amount of content consumed, or increasing customer retention.
Transition to First-Party Data
Companies have long relied on third-party data to provide personalized product experiences, using demographics, geographics, number of visits, or other web analytics. This data has been the cornerstone of optimizing for both conversion and retention.
However, in 2018, the California Consumer Privacy Act paved the way for strict amendments to the use of third-party digital information. Consumers must give companies permission to collect and sell their data. Google, Facebook, and Apple have all announced changes already in place, or forthcoming, that will limit how platforms can use the data they collect.
According to McKinsey & Company, “the loss of third-party data will leave marketers, ad agencies, and the publishing and media vehicles…in the dark about behavioral and demographic insights.” The decisions by these industry giants will continue to shape how media and entertainment companies can collect and manage data. They can no longer rely on third-party data to understand how users are interacting with their content.
First-party data, generated directly by consumers and captured by companies, will be the future. Not only will companies have control over this data, but they can also wield it in ways that surpass the surface-level insights of third-party data. First-party data, such as data collected through a product analytics platform like Amplitude, reflects the actual behavior of users within the platform. By grouping users into cohorts based on their behavior, companies can use first-party data to understand the critical event and provide personalized recommendations.
3. Provide Personalized Content Recommendations
Personalized recommendations often lead to high engagement rates and loyalty between the provider and consumer. Wired reports that “more than 80 percent of the TV shows [and movies] people watch on Netflix are discovered through the platform’s recommendation system.”
Netflix is a leading example many companies want to emulate: the best personalization comes from historical behavioral data. Behavioral data becomes the best predictor of what the user might want next. Just because a user finishes watching a drama doesn’t mean the best recommendation for the next piece of content should be another drama. Instead, a behavioral cohort of other users who finished watching the same drama might reveal the next piece of content most-watched is a newly-released action movie. The more accurate the predictions, the more a user will come to realize a platform has the content they will love.
Companies need to figure out how to surface these recommendations: the right type of content for the right user at the right time. If knowing that users must reach a critical event and the “next piece of content” is a step in that journey, then companies need to provide both the in-app and follow-up experiences to draw users in with this level of personalized recommendations.
Amplitude Recommend combines product analytics and machine learning to provide recommendations based on a behavioral level instead of a type-of-content level. Malaysia-based streaming platform iflix used Amplitude Analytics and Amplitude Recommend to identify key user segments based on behaviors. With this knowledge, iflix expanded from one onboarding experience to seven and now targets new users when they are most likely to engage with the app. Highly targeted campaigns grew conversion-to-view rates and ad revenue by 4x.
Lean Into Continuous Engagement to Drive Retention
Two-thirds of U.S. adults added a streaming service during the pandemic, but 30 percent said they are likely to cut back when the pandemic is over. That means entertainment services are in a crunch to optimize their services for retention before this spike in demand flattens out.
To win the flatten out, media and entertainment companies can’t lose the attention of consumers. And to do this, companies need to understand what’s driving growth on their platform and how to bring users back, both through in-app experiences and external engagement. Those that take their insights a step further can use data as a predictor to generate new content that will keep their customers loyal.
Read more about challenges, trends, and how media and entertainment companies can differentiate themselves in our E-book, “Personalization at Every Step: how Media and Entertainment Businesses Can Stay on Top.” Click here to download your copy.