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Great content still needs a great engagement strategy to drive viewers

By James Manderson, general manager at customer engagement platform Braze EMEA

For many, curling up to watch the latest boxset from start to finish needs no excuse. However, the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing guidelines, set by many governments around the world, have caused a further sharp rise in streaming…the cohort of “Keep Watching” viewers just got bigger.

Whilst many other businesses are struggling, since lockdown we’ve seen the list of streaming services in the UK grow with the launches of Roku Channel and Disney Plus. It’s an unprecedented time for all streaming services, and competition for viewers has risen as a consequence. 

Of course, high-quality content is key to the success of streaming services. Now more than ever we want to be transported to another world with immersive content that moves us. So, it’s no surprise the likes of Netflix’s Tiger King – a bizarre look into the world of big cat breeding – or BBC Three’s risky Normal People have caused a stir on social media.

But great filmed content and social media chatter aren’t the only ingredients for making viewer numbers rise.  An effective customer engagement strategy is also key. We know this because, we recently published a report with mobile intelligence firm Apptopia that looked at 35 streaming services, revealing stats demonstrating how best practice communications strategies drive viewers. 

The right stuff

The Right Stuff is hitting our screens later this year – a scripted series adaption of the 1979 astronomy-based book by the late Tom Wolfe – but it’s also the key to engaging viewers. Communications are only effective if they are served at the right time, on the right channel, with the right message. And this isn’t just around the time a hit show will be dropping – it’s a strategy that streaming services looking to stay competitive should be focusing on at all times. Our data shows that even the most exciting shows need the support of a robust engagement strategy to be successful, highlighting a strong correlation between personalised, relevant communication and monthly active users.

Agile tech is the new black

With the right technology, combined with customer-first focused teams, streaming services can rise above the noise. Many brands, not just in the streaming services industry, are guilty of ‘spray and pray’ communications to stale customer segments in the hope that they gain traction. It’s not good enough.

Agile marketing platforms, free from channel and data silos, allow brands across all sectors to spot trends in customer behaviour and adapt effectively. For streaming services, this is particularly useful in understanding channel preference for communications. For example, recent March and April data from Braze shows that consumers who aren’t on the move in lockdown are responding more than usual to longer form messages. The proof is in the pudding – with email unique open rates more than double compared to April of last year, push total open rates are down 34.69 per cent vs the same period last year.

Data and humans together take the crown

But technology alone is not a communications winner. Humans, unlike machines, are capable of empathy. Clean and relevant data is essential to identifying trends and serving communications campaigns on the best channel to the most suitable audience, but it cannot determine how to speak to customers. Humans are needed to drive such creativity and make the communications more ‘personable.’ 

Recent communications from Channel 4 are an excellent case in point, using short-form push messages to remind viewers of the #ClapForOurCarers campaign in a timely fashion, mixed with insightful longer form email messages highlighting relevant content for those seeking entertainment in lockdown.

The current pandemic clearly marks the opportunity for streaming services to boost engagement. With so many players, it’s key to stay competitive with great content and great engagement strategies. With agile tech, a customer-focused team and a whole lot of creativity they can do this during this time and beyond… as the list of streaming services and the catalogue of hit shows continues to grow.