Media OTT: Personalization Strategies to Get Closer to Your Users During Social Distancing
Written by
Ritu Poddar
Ritu Poddar

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Media OTT: Personalization Strategies to Get Closer to Your Users During Social Distancing

Published : April 3, 2020 | Updated : May 21, 2024

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity. – John F. Kennedy

The whole world is fighting the corona virus crisis, and preparing itself for the impending economic challenges and repercussions of the global lockdown. Businesses are already reeling under the losses. But for certain sectors, the crisis is an opportunity in disguise. It may seem insensitive, unethical, and opportunistic, but the fact remains that some industries like online gaming, edutech, fitness & productivity apps, and OTT platforms are thriving really well at this time.

In the last couple of weeks, our day-to-day lives have changed in several ways, starting from the way we work, to the ways we unwind and relax. With limited options of outdoor entertainment, mandatory social distancing, and long hours of staying at home, the Over-The-Top media platforms are seeing a spike in their user base and viewership.

OTT platforms have already seen a 20% increase in consumption in the last few days.

Apart from global players like Netflix, Amazon prime video, & Hotstar, domestic brands are also seeing a rise in content consumption and subscription rate. Tarun Katial, CEO, ZEE5 India shared that Zee Group’s OTT platform, saw twice the growth in subscription as of March 22, compared to March 15. Similarly, Voot Select saw massive rise in subscriptions within 10 days of its launch in early march.

Should Media OTT Brands Cash in on the Situational Opportunity?

As they say, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic is not just affecting the economy and physical health of those affected but is also taking a toll on people’s mental health. Uncertainty about the future, concern about the loved ones, financial stress and quarantine–all of it is making it difficult for people to cope with reality. During such times, OTT platforms like yours are bringing in respite for people, in the form of entertainment. Media OTT brands now have increased opportunities for customer acquisition and engagement.

To make the most of it, you need to couple the opportunity with the right marketing strategies. Because, the situation is favorable not just for you, but for your competitors also. Moreover, the increasing overlap of content across platforms leaves with you no choice than improving your customers’ experience and engagement. Here are a few tips that can be of help:

  • Personalize
  • Personalize
  • Personalize

Well, the impact of personalization is huge. After all, who doesn’t know about Netflix’s personalized recommendation engine’s role in the platform’s success?

Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos said, “There’s no such thing as a ‘Netflix show’. Our brand is personalization.”

It is easier to grab your users’ attention at this time, and for longer durations. So, whatever efforts you take towards engagement and retention, are going to pay off even after the crisis has passed.

Check out: Personalization Thursdays: Deliver 20% Better Binge Recommendations to your Media/OTT Users

Personalization Strategies to Engage With Your Audience During Social Distancing

Here are certain strategies that would certainly help you leverage the opportunities at hand:

  1. Hook your first-time users/trial membership users with the magic of personalization

    It’s been weeks that malls, gyms, swimming pools, theatres, restaurants, and all other outdoor activity centers are closed. Even TV shows and sports events are getting canceled. So, many users are entering the world of online web content as newbies. While these bored people may be turning to your platform as a last resort of entertainment and have low expectations, it is your chance to amaze them and get them hooked to your app. How?

    • Personalized welcome campaign: Most of us might think that who cares about welcome emails anyway. But welcome emails on an average generate up to 320% more revenue per email basis than other promotional emails. And subscribers who receive a welcome email show 33% more engagement. Spice up your campaigns with personalized content recommendations based on the information the new users share while signing up.
    • Offsite and onsite engagement: Based on their behavior, keep sharing content recommendations through onsite and offsite channels–email, push notifications, SMS. A couple of days ago, I helped my mother sign up for one of these OTT apps. She watched a movie of her favorite star from yesteryears. The next day she opened the app, and saw a list of “You may also like” movies, she jumped with excitement, like a kid who found a jarful of his favorite candy.
      Now, you might want to note that many of your new users during this time will be from the elder age groups who are quite easy to impress with the wonders of technology.

      Related read: Media OTT: Top Personalization Tips to Attract & Retain Subscribers

  2. Revive old customers with hyper-personalized content recommendation
    Just like any relationship, maintaining customer connects also takes some effort, and you know it well. Many OTT platform users go dormant after using up the free trial membership, or when the membership expires. Also, you cannot overlook the fact that the Feb-April is the examination season in India, and that’s when many users (young student groups) cut down time spent on watching content.

    As per this survey done last year, young users in the age group of 16-24 are major OTT platform users.
    However, this year, times are different. With exams canceled, and long vacations, they have all the time to themselves to binge-watch.So, it is time to bring those dormant accounts back to life. Blend your messaging with personalization such that those lost customers come back as if they had never left.
    Since new productions are on hold, many platforms are displaying old shows and series based on previous watch history and ratings. So, ruffle the customer data, put your AI engines to work, and re-engage with your users through hard-to-ignore content recommendations.

  3. Focus on promoting regional and age-specific content that appeals to users

    As mentioned above, along with the size of your viewer base, the variety in it is also growing. In fact, a research firm reported last year that the older age groups –35 to 44 years, and 45 to 54 years, showed growth in adoption of OTT services at 18%, and 63% respectively. Your expanding users base now will most likely include:

    • Users living in tier-2 cities and small towns, who are likely to consume regional language content
    • Users from the older age groups (like my mom) who would prefer content that appeals to their age–say old movies, serials, mythological content, etc.
    • Kids and teenagers who are generally not allowed to watch online content, but now they are, for the lack of other options of entertainment
      So, now is the time to forge that strong connection with these users. Show them what they want to see. Make full use of data to deliver highly relevant recommendations that your users can’t overlook.

      I was amused to see a link to a Rajasthani movie getting shared in my family’s WhatsApp group. That app my mother began using, has won her heart with the right kind of recommendations.

      Check out Smartech’s Media OTT solutions here.

  4. Promote special plans and content packages

    Every business sector is doing what it can to thrive and sustain during these trying times. So is the media OTT industry. When the 21-day lockdown was announced in India, many leading brands came up with free content and free/extended subscription offers as their contribution to easing people’s quarantined life.

    Voot has come up with a Lockdown watchlist, quite interesting!
    Some have come up with mobile-friendly & pocket-friendly packages so that users without computers (like my parents) can have their own accounts on their phones. So, while your business management teams are coming up with such ideas, you as marketers must promote these extensively. Global players like Hotstar, Amazon prime video and Netflix are now experimenting with India-specific special subscription plans.

  5. Keep the existing users engaged & entertained

    While you focus on new customers and on re-targeting the old ones, do not make the mistake of overlooking the existing ones. The competition out there is tough. Remember that every brand is doing its best to make the most of the opportunity. So, do not take your existing users for granted, lest they should stray away.

    Keep them engaged with regular notifications about any new content additions/old binge-watch recommendations that match their genre preferences.

A few more points to remember

  1. Recalibrate Send Time Optimization: Extend your personalization strategy beyond content recommendations and messaging. If you use send time optimization, you might want to recalibrate it because the daily routines of users have changed.
    Officials from leading OTT platforms are already reporting shifts in peak consumption hours, reporting that the evening peak consumption period now starts at 6 pm, as opposed to 8 pm, and remains high until midnight. People who used to check emails & notifications during their commute to work may be now checking them during the afternoon, during the lunch break. So, capture data diligently and act on the insights promptly.

  2. Maintain an empathetic and responsible tone
    These are critical and sensitive times. Ensure that you do not come across as an opportunist trying to take advantage of people’s misery. Be empathetic and responsible.

  3. Keep your users updated about current affairs
    Keep your users posted about the measures you are taking as a responsible employer and as an aware corporate organization. Include safety instructions and verified information in your messages. This would show that you care about your customers’ health and well-being, not just about your growing your business.

  4. Don’t go overboard with your marketing campaigns
    In your eagerness to keep your users coming back for more, don’t get carried away. Strike the optimal balance while sending out campaigns. Utilize frequency capping to ensure you are not causing content-overwhelm to your users.

Currently, there is extreme uncertainty in the air. But as Stephen Covey famously remarked, ‘If there’s one thing that’s certain in business, it’s uncertainty.’

Businesses and marketing never stop, nor do they have to. It’s on the shoulders of marketers to not let the demands die, and help businesses thrive.

Neeraj Roy, Founder & CEO of Hungama Digital Media so rightly said, ‘The world is faced with a pandemic that is unprecedented and limiting social interactions has been advised as an effective measure to flatten the curve. OTT (over-the-top) platforms help people cope with the monotony of being restricted to their houses and also provide some relief from the grim reality”.

Your brand is contributing its part by helping people deal with the anxiety that quarantine has brought along. So, be proud, and do it well. And we are here to help. Feel free to contact us.

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Written By: Ritu Poddar