Driving OTT App Engagement through Bingeable User Experiences

Content is king, but engagement wins it all.

The average American consumer subscribes to 3 subscription video services and in today’s competitive OTT landscape, user experience has become increasingly important for media companies to differentiate their streaming video offerings.

What is User Experience?

User Experience (UX) Design, as a discipline, takes care of every detail of a product such as a website, mobile application (Apple, Android, etc), or Connected TV app (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, etc).

When developing a new product or service, designers must take a holistic approach and focus on the way products are used and solve user problems, which usually go beyond aesthetics. A designer creates the full customer journey from beginning to end, and encompasses all customer touch points in between, addressing common pain points and finding opportunities to reward and engage.

Why is UX so important?

UX is important because it attempts to fulfill the users’ needs. Good UX will generate positive experiences that keep users engaged and loyal to a product or brand. For OTT video service providers, good user experience allows you to define customer journeys on your website, mobile and Connected TV apps that are most conducive to business success — for example, sign up for a new account, or spend a certain amount of time per viewing session. At a high-level, since we could write for days about this stuff, these are some of the benefits of a good UX design for OTT video apps:

  1. Investing in UX design upfront can significantly reduce costs down the road
  2. User Experience can help increase conversions
  3. UX design can increase user engagement, retention, and brand loyalty
  4. UX design can increase word of mouth referrals

Providing a great user experience for your users, not only increases the likelihood of boosting conversions, or desired actions you want users to take, but you can change lives too.

By making the interactions of a video service as simple and intuitive as possible, you are making your users’ lives easier.

And if your website, mobile, and Connected TV apps are able to help users quickly browse and discover content that keeps them engaged, this will leave a lasting impression. And this is just one reason viewers might subscribe to your SVOD service directly through you rather than through a third-party.

Since 2002, we’ve worked with some of the biggest media and entertainment companies in the United States, driving innovative user experiences that produce results for our customers.

Below are some features that we’ve seen boost engagement, retention, and brand affinity that you may want to consider implementing in your OTT video apps.

Content Recommendations: It’s all about that (data) base

One way media companies can look to bring in new visitors, keep them on their OTT apps, and turn them into advocates is by implementing a content recommendation engine.

Put simply, content recommendations are a set of data-based instructions that tell the OTT app how content should be merchandised. The output can be a single personalized “up next” video, an entire content row, or the entire application can be tailored to a user’s viewing habits.

Personalized recommendations are a popular OTT video feature for one simple reason: they work. Viewers like recommendations because they present personalized and relevant content that can break through preconceived notions and help discover shows they might not have otherwise thought to watch.

OTT video services like personalized recommendations because they boost app engagement, consumption, and customer lifetime value.

On Youtube, 70% of views are driven by content recommendations. Not only do recommendations account for 80% of Netflix’s video views, but it’s able to save the company a billion dollars annually.

By combining behavioral data points with machine learning algorithms, several types of content recommendations can be triggered such as ranking, search, ratings, and similarity-based.

Related Content: “I’ll have what she’s having”

The most common form of product relationships are ontological or natural relationships. For example, if a viewer watches a comedy movie, they may be interested in other comedy movies. In this case, the genre “comedy” ties them together:

A product’s success is all about eliminating friction and increasing content discovery. At the minimum, this is what you should be doing.

Collective-Behavior Product Relationships

Collective behavior can also help relate products, tying together video titles that may not have a natural relationship or at least a close one. Instead, we discover behavior-based relationships by monitoring global data and relating titles drawn on the viewing trend analysis based on cast, director, location, etc.

Let’s say for example you notice viewers of your OTT app who watch “Taxi Driver” and “Date Night” are also likely to watch “When Harry Met Sally”.

This is a collective behavior that you can begin to use to relate products. Other than the fact that these are all movies, there’s not a clear natural connection between the titles.

Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” is a crime thriller released in 1976. “Date Night” starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey is a 2010 comedy about a couple whose routine date night becomes anything but and “When Harry Met Sally” is a romance drama from 1989 about college graduates who share a contentious car ride from Chicago to New York, during which they argue about whether men and women can ever truly be strictly platonic friends.

But all of the movies are related in that they took place in New York, New York.

No pun to Harry or Sally, but this type of complicated relationship is not something that an OTT service provider would normally think of, but by monitoring the aggregated viewing behavior of customers overtime, complex relationships can become obvious.

A savvy OTT service provider will monitor video analytics for just this type of collective behavior trend and create related content suggestions based on the observed behaviors.

Alternatively, there are also several OTT software tools available to help identify these types of trends.

Global-Behavior Product Relationships

If we take our analysis and take collective behavior a step further, we can really improve both customer engagement and profit.

Global or similarity-based behavior is discovered by dividing collective behavior trends by demographics or specific behaviors.

The goal is to discover personas within collective viewing trends that we can use with new customers, based on which cohort or persona he or she matches.

Artwork: An image is worth a thousand words

Recommending the right titles in front of users is crucial, but the job of recommendation does not end there. How can you convey that a new and unfamiliar title is worth watching?

Something that’s worth considering is the artwork or thumbnails used to portray the video titles.

It’s one thing to display artwork for a title that would earn the most play from viewers, however given the vast diversity in individual taste and preferences, artificial intelligence can take personalized thumbnails one step further by selecting the best artwork for each viewer to highlight aspects of a title that’s specifically relevant to them.

If the artwork captures something compelling to you, then it essentially acts as a doorway into that title giving you visual evidence to why the title may be a good fit for you. The artwork might highlight an actor you recognize or contain a dramatic or action-filled scene that conveys the essence of a movie or series.

Perhaps a user who watches many movies featuring Robert Deniro would respond positively to the artwork for Heat that contains Robert. Meanwhile, a fan of Al Pacino may be more interested in watching Serpico if the artwork features Al.

By personalizing artwork, OTT service providers help each title put its best step forward and improve the overall customer experience.

Video previews:

Browsing the typical OTT video app only by a synopsis and artwork is really no different than walking the aisles of a Blockbuster on a Friday night in the 1990’s. As content libraries are continuing to grow across video services, it’s becoming more challenging to present viewers with enough information to decide what to watch.

How can a viewer tell if a movie is both a horror and comedy?

Video previews are specifically designed video synopses that make it easier and faster for viewers to make confident decisions by quickly highlighting the story, characters, and tone of a title. Studies have shown that video previews have helped combat “browse fatigue”, that is endlessly cycling through thumbnails without ever finding something to watch.

Video previews were introduced by Netflix a few years ago and has been making its way to other OTT companies. Amazon’s Fire TV started auto-playing videos in late 2016 and Google as been hinted at added the feature in its Google Play Store for Android TV.

This fall, Apple will add video previews to the Apple TV home screen in its tvOS 13 software update. Apps along the top row will have the opportunity to play a trailer, just like Netflix does. Apple says this will make the home screen “even more engaging.”

It’s time to start thinking about your OTT app’s UX

When’s the last time you took a hard look at the user journey of your website or OTT apps? If it’s been awhile, it’s in your best interest to revisit it and make sure you aren’t losing users due to a confusing user experience.

Need an outside perspective? Zemoga’s OTT app solutions range from providing strategic consultation to fully autonomous cross-functional retained teams to individual OTT app experts that can seamlessly integrate into your project team.

We support all major Connected TV and mobile platforms from Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Samsung Tizen, iOS, and Android TV/mobile, and more.

At Zemoga we help our clients build better.