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How can streaming brands retain customers in 2021?

James Manderson, VP of Global Success at Braze, argues that if 2020 was the year of streaming, then 2021 needs to be the year of retention

Over the past few years streaming services have witnessed explosive growth, with many new players entering the market, and throughout the pandemic, services have been regarded as indispensable to many of us confined to our homes during perpetual lockdowns. Some have even signalled that streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix could be set to replace the traditional cinema experience altogether. But with the government’s roadmap out of lockdown now outlined, and with people eager to get out and about again, how can streaming services hold on to newly acquired customers once restrictions are eased, and beyond?

Whilst Braze coined 2020 as the ‘year of streaming’, 2021 is set to be the year of retention. This surge in success has led the streaming market to become increasingly competitive and according to the Braze 2021 Global Customer Engagement Review, 40 per cent of media and entertainment brands said their biggest challenge this year would be to break through a crowded market. To tackle this, brands must recognise that, alongside great content, a robust and personalised customer engagement strategy is required to achieve long-term success.

Renewing the focus on customer needs 

For some time, streaming services have relied on their competitive prices and exclusive shows and movies, to stand apart from their rivals. But as the competition has intensified, brands must now move past just examining cost and content, and instead focus on customer engagement. 

The collection of real-time streaming data can inform customer engagement strategy, allowing brands to address customer preferences by offering unique experiences, and tailored viewing suggestions such as We think you might like Bridgerton’. This enables streaming services to achieve meaningful connections instantaneously, on the right channel, in personalised and human ways. Personalisation matters to customers and is proven to drive long term brand loyalty. By using the right marketing stack, streaming services can leverage customer data in real-time, to gain a deeper understanding of viewing behaviours and habits, using this to inform and develop unique and personalised experiences, making customers feel understood and valued.

Boosting engagement through a cross-channel approach

In order to boost engagement, streaming services must understand the value of having a cross-channel strategy for monitoring and analysing behaviour, and communicating with customers across platforms, including mobile, tablet, smart TV, desktop, and beyond. Whilst many streaming services take advantage of multiple channels, they often rely on one, such as email, for the majority of their campaigns and customer communications. Sending messages across multiple channels creates a seamless experience, increasing engagement and conversion rates. Streaming services need to consider that every customer is unique and can be more or less receptive to different channels, based on their individual preferences, which is why it’s important for brands to not put all their eggs in one basket. 

Findings from Braze’s research indicate that, by taking a cross-channel approach, blending both in-product and out-of-product messaging channels, brands tend to have the highest overall performance. It also highlights how, by adding mobile messages (either push or in-app) to email, streaming brands see an average 2.2X increase in 30-day retention – making clear the benefits of using multiple messaging channels.

Working with Braze, streaming service HBO Max successfully implemented a cross-channel marketing strategy that captivated its audience and drove important conversions. As part of its launch in 2020, HBO Max offered a seven-day free trial period to encourage users to sign up and entice them into becoming paying subscribers. Using Braze, HBO Max sent push notifications to customers across channels, including mobile and email, to drive engagement by recommending content as soon as users registered and opted-in to receiving messages. By leveraging Braze, HBO Max’s campaign boosted conversions of free-trial users to paying subscribers by 3,000 per cent, compared with the traditional approach that just sent users standard messages.

Customer retention above everything else 

Whilst expansion and growth are important for business, acquiring new customers can be costly, and focus on this should not be made at the expense of retaining existing customers. Despite competing in an increasingly saturated market, Braze research found that streaming brands are spending more of their marketing budget on acquisition (52 per cent) than they do on retention (48 per cent). In today’s digital economy users are increasingly fickle, and so 2021 needs to be the watershed moment for streaming services to switch focus and concentrate on holding on to their customers.

After using great prices and superior content to attract new customers in, streaming services need to align their strategies towards encouraging users to stick around. By using engagement tactics like personalised experiences and cross-channel messaging – informed by customer data – streaming services can generate long term brand loyalty. In order to stand apart from competitors in such a crowded space, brands must place as much value on customer retention, if not more, than on customer acquisition. 

With competition in the streaming sector hotting up, a strong customer engagement strategy is vital to distinguish your brand from other market challengers. By using the right tech to analyse customer data, and the right teams to implement it into brilliant cross-channel campaigns, this can be achieved. But above all, to stay competitive, streaming services need to focus their efforts towards retaining existing customer bases, in order to generate long-term brand loyalty which translates into the real winners.