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You Can Win The Streaming Wars! The Answer Is Interactivity

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The next frontier for streaming content is interactivity. In 2022, if you haven't already started adding ways to engage with viewers to keep them more engaged, you're falling behind. Millions of dollars are being left on the table when it comes to exploring the possibilities that engagement through interactive features can provide streaming services.

Social media has increased the need for engagement and can be a valuable connection point for brands. Engagement with consumers drives a return on social media marketing and advertising spend. The lean back experience of watching a program is a thing of the past—even if the content doesn't include any interactive features (e.g., polls, trivia, games) users are interacting on social media. People are constantly on their phones checking social media with 84% of Americans using a second screen while they watch content on streaming platforms. However, consumers are also flocking to social media to complain about streaming delays, buffering, and poor video quality. Frustration with poor streaming technology will only increase until churn becomes enough of a problem financially for streaming providers to make changes.

As the desire for interactivity has come to the forefront, providers need to pivot and improve technology to be able to deliver streams in real-time without latency in order to win the streaming wars.

The Stream Can Be Your Own Personal Store

Today's consumers are heavily influenced by social media when making purchasing decisions. In fact, people are increasingly shopping directly from TikTok and Instagram. The logical next step? Bring live commerce shopping experiences directly into streaming content as well. 

98% of consumers plan to make at least one purchase through social shopping in 2022 according to a new study by Sprout Social. Live commerce is growing 2.5 times faster than traditional shopping channels, and is expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2025.

To compete and not miss out on revenue potential, streaming providers need a live commerce play, which is not very hard to implement. Options to buy products can be integrated directly into the stream and content with overlays, making it easier than ever to purchase. Essentially the viewing experience becomes a shopping one and consumers can buy what they see on their screen. 

And consumers want this too. According to Sprout Social, viewers rated a "streamlined in-platform shopping experience" highly, with 45% of respondents saying they're excited to buy directly from their favorite social platforms.

It is essential for viewers watching a livestream that the technology be in real-time and not have any lag. If a consumer wants the shirt they just saw, but their stream is buffering or has delays it will impact whether they follow through on their purchase.

Live commerce is already popular for livestreaming, as 71% of livestream watchers have bought something on social, according to Sprout Social. Streaming services should take notice. According to recent research from Phenix conducted by YouGov, 12% of fans said they wanted to shop for 'fan' gear while watching the Super Bowl. This indicates viewers are interested and willing to buy as they watch, which is an untapped opportunity to boost revenue.

You Can Play As You Watch

Gamification is another effective and valuable way to engage viewers. Everyone loves a competition; chances to win prizes is a positive way to increase fan engagement during a live broadcast.

Implementing game-like features, such as live quizzes or polls, directly into a livestream incentivizes viewers to engage with the content. This keeps fans watching longer and more intently. Implementing gamification is also an opportunity to collect data on customers to use when adjusting future content. Streaming services can see who is engaging more frequently with the content, providing insights on the most loyal fans, perhaps to build a fan club in the future offering exclusive benefits.

It's also something customers want—18% of people said they would have liked quizzes and polls during the Super Bowl, according to recent research from Phenix conducted by YouGov. 

The technology needs to be able to support these features. If your stream is delayed that will drastically hinder the user experience (viewers may miss a question) and they'll take to social media to complain about it.

You're Never Watching Alone

Viewers want to interact with friends and family while watching. While there are opportunities to engage via social media or even texting, the ability to interact within the livestream is the next step in interactivity.

There are many opportunities to engage viewers with on-screen features such as "Watch Together"—the ability to chat with friends and family within the stream.

Viewers want to interact with others watching the same thing, creating a virtual fandom online…who doesn't love trash talking with a friend! It's extremely disruptive and frustrating if each stream is not in sync which can spoil moments between friends and fans.

Viewers love interacting with their favorite celebrities. We see this with Celebrity Connect Twitch—viewers can interact with creators through its owned channels and features like Drops, a popular method of rewarding viewers (which goes hand in hand with gamification). Imagine being able to interact directly with Justin Bieber at a concert or Lebron James during a game?!

Streaming services are in a fragile state with decreasing profitability and subscription numbers. Exclusive content and bundling with other services certainly help differentiate, but the key to winning the streaming wars is keeping viewers engaged through interactive features to avoid churn and to further maximize revenue. To do this properly, the technology employed must be in real-time and in sync so everyone can engage at the same time. 

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

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