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You’ve Got (Personalized) Mail! It’s Time to Take Recommendations Beyond the App Interface

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve outlined a series of modern personalization methodologies  that streaming service providers can use to improve content engagement within their consumer applications. These have included: 

It would be a mistake, however, to think that personalized recommendations can only be used to increase the volume and range of content that viewers watch once they get to your applications. The best content discovery user experiences and personalized user interfaces are all for nothing if users only visit your app once and then forget to return. 

As personalization experts, many video service providers have sought out 24i’s help because they have high user numbers for a single high-profile series, but then struggle to tempt those visitors back to watch other items in their content library. A relatively simple way to reverse this trend is to to extend personalized content recommendations into your marketing communications—using data wisely to optimize those messages.

You are probably already marketing to your consumers through a myriad of different touchpoints—email, social media, push notifications, maybe even old-fashioned posted “snail” mail if you’re a telco or Pay TV operator that supplies services to the home address. How much are you integrating personalization into those messages?

Writing a million (or more) individual emails that are personalized to each specific consumer is obviously not viable, but if you can identify a cohort of consumers with similar behaviors it can be highly effective to send them communications that feel more personalized than a blanket, one-size-fits-all message. Emails that push them towards specific pieces of content, not just your flagship series launch or your new pricing deal. 

With an API-based recommendation service, you should also be able to insert two or three user-specific content recommendations into an otherwise generic email, just as you can insert their first name into the text. 

Streaming leaders like Netflix are already experimenting with personalized email messaging such as:

  • Hey, did you know we’ve just released new episodes of [that series you love]?

  • Don’t forget to finish watching that series of [the show you started last week]!

  • Now you’ve watched [name of movie], here’s some more we think you’ll like…

These are all great ways to get consumers to return to your site, and you’ve already got the data needed to drive this level of personalized communications. You just need to tap into that data and match it up to your metadata.

One of our customers did just that and then conducted A/B testing that compared the success rate of a regular email newsletter versus an email containing personalized content recommendations. The result? They saw a whopping 121% increase in people visiting their app within three days for the group who received the personalized emails.

Timing is (almost) everything

With any marketing, there’s more to success than just the content of your communications. You also need to consider how it is delivered and when it is delivered. Once again, personalization can really help to improve conversion rates, and you already have the data to help you optimize your approach.

If your data shows that a cohort of users regularly visit your service on a Friday evening, there’s little point prompting them to watch something on a Wednesday afternoon. By Friday night they’ll have forgotten all about that great show you suggested to them mid-week.

To maximize your success, identify patterns of viewing in your customer cohort and target your messages to suit the majority of viewers. A well-timed Friday afternoon email can make all the difference. It’s a fact well demonstrated by the same 24i customer who saw a 121% uplift in play conversions with personalized emails. They ran the same A/B test on a Wednesday and while the personalized messages still did better than the generic email, the uplift was “only” 20%!

When I interviewed Sky Group’s Director of Group Discovery and AI, Caroline Cardozo, she told me they were still “tiptoeing” into this area, having done lots of work to understand the challenges of email recommendations, “When you pull everything together…into an email, it's a very different time to when you might open that email. So being able to see what content you've got at the right time and that click rate through, can be quite complex.”

The user’s choice of device is also important. If your data suggests a significant group of users is accessing your service on their phones at a certain time of day (during the commute home, for example), you can exploit that pattern of behavior. Instead of sending a recommendation email, a personalized content suggestion via mobile push notification close to the start of their regular viewing time can be extremely effective. It’s the nudge they need, at the time and place they need it, to enjoy your content.

A word of warning: avoiding the “creepy zone”

Clearly there’s a technical hurdle to be overcome in integrating your email, mail or push-notification systems and the APIs from your recommendations service. But as I touched upon in my previous article on the psychology of recommendations, there’s also a delicate balance to be struck in marketing communications. Customers don’t want to get the sense they’re being monitored and manipulated. As with all email marketing, it’s important to get the right tone and frequency to avoid becoming “spammy.”

Caroline Carodozo describes her ultimate goal as being able to “drive just really magical moments for our customers that are tailored to them but don't feel like they're tailored to them.” She says Sky wants its customers to feel that the company knows them, “but they don't feel that we’ve crossed the line and kind of gone into what I affectionately call ‘the creepy zone’.” 

As with all the other strategies I’ve outlined in this series of articles, the only way to find out what works for your users, and what runs the risk of straying into the “creepy zone,” is to define clear goals and then conduct some detailed A/B testing.

This is the last in my series of articles for Streaming Media. If you’d like to dive a little deeper into the topics I’ve covered in these blogs, you can download 24i’s e-guide:  Five engagement-boosting strategies every streaming service should adopt right now

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from 24i. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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