Building loyalty into the streaming experience
POSTED : December 2, 2020
BY : Ben Schwartz

The days of struggling to find quality streaming content are a thing of the past. With more and more streaming service providers investing heavily into content and democratized technology leveling the playing field, attention is now the scarce resource as consumers now have a plethora of places to spend the currency that is their time and loyalty. This shift is forcing streaming providers to rethink traditional modes of distribution and consumption and highlights the importance of viewing the streaming experience as a journey that exists before and after the content is viewed. Through this lens of a broader, circular journey, streaming providers can unlock new opportunities in areas like platform mobility, content communities and transmedia engagement to build deeper customer loyalty and stronger points of differentiation.

Building multichannel streaming experiences

A natural element of the modern streaming journey is the freedom consumers now have to enjoy content across a myriad of devices. As evidenced by a recent PK survey, content engagement is no longer confined to the living room TV as more early adopters stream on laptops than any other device and smartphone streaming becomes ubiquitous across early adopter and late majority cohorts.

This increased mobility across devices has interesting implications for delivering an experience worthy of customer loyalty. First, streaming providers need to prioritize delivering a seamless experience transitioning across devices. Nearly 75% of early adopters reported having started watching content on one device and finished watching on another. More than half of the late majority have done the same. This ability to move from one device to another without friction ultimately leads to a more technologically holistic viewing experience and introduces the customer to new usage occasions and interactions with your brand. Among brands surveyed, Disney+ currently leads the pack in streaming mobility, a result that seems to speak to their understanding of their position as a family-based platform and the importance of creating a seamless experience across devices to satisfy all family member viewing preferences.

MDX streaming services "mobility" dimension ratings

Second, streaming providers must understand how the customer experiences and interacts on each device. Everything from the platform UI/UX to the environment in which you can stream content is different depending on whether the customer is watching on a TV, laptop, smartphone or even a smart home device such as the Amazon Echo Show or Google Next Hub. Understanding the unique device experience and leveraging habits native to that device will drive increased engagement and deliver value that is both device-specific but still platform-consistent.

Building human connections

Another major opportunity for streaming providers to build emotive bonds with their customers lies in the even deeper connections these customers have with friends, family and other fans of their favorite content. Before and after viewing content, streaming customers consult and interact with various communities that are highly influential in shaping brand perceptions and viewing decisions. Survey results show that chatting with friends and family via social media are the most common ways that streamers discover new content, with more than 65% of respondents leveraging these networks for content recommendations.

Streaming service providers can tap into these communities through water-cooler type interactions such as watch parties and limited chat functions, but more creativity is needed around this dialogue. There is strong interest in social viewing, for example, with 45% of respondents interested in watching not only movies via a watch party but also episodes, events and sports. Friends, family and fans watch content at different times; however, impactful community functionality will also need to exist off-platform and seamlessly integrate into the areas and habits of social media subscribers naturally engage and interact with. YouTube TV, a brand rooted in social sharing and connection, perhaps unsurprisingly outranked all evaluated brands in this area, a testament to its grasp of community in key streaming areas like social, account sharing and support.

Building transmedia experiences

Transmedia engagement, applied to streaming service providers, can be viewed as the extent to which content extends beyond the show or movie and into a customer’s everyday life through other channels.

The Star Wars franchise, which has stretched its content beyond the theater to gaming, books, merchandise, mobile apps, streaming content and even theme park rides, is a prime example of a story-world permeating across the consumption landscape. These additional touchpoints of engagement give fans a chance to experience content in new ways and from new perspectives, creating additional and diversified usage occasions for providers and increased opportunities to capture customer loyalty.

While this extension into a subscriber’s everyday life is no small feat, streaming services benefit from having a customer base that is already finding their own way to engage with content off-platform. In our survey, 87% of respondents across the adoption curve engaged with content related to a streaming show or movie outside of the platform in some way. The data was even more pronounced for early adopters, with a whopping 97% having engaged in some manner. Mobile gaming and social media are particularly popular platforms, but transmedia engagement also extends into additional channels including podcasts and merchandising, with over 40% of both early adopters and early majority having listened or made a purchase related to specific streaming content.

The key piece of transmedia engagement for streaming providers will be how well they can tie their brand to a specific tv/show, preferably original content, or media channel. Done authentically and thoughtfully, transmedia engagement represents an opportunity to provide customer value beyond a traditional loyalty program model. By extending content off-platform and into other areas of a customer’s life, transmedia enables providers to activate previously unavailable loyalty levers to create a more cohesive and comprehensive experience. This improved experience for customers means increased pre-stream adoption and post-stream retention for providers and, ultimately, a differentiated experience that rewards brand loyalty.

While content will continue to be an important piece of a customer’s connection to a streaming service, it is not a driver of sustained, meaningful loyalty. In our research, 62% of respondents signed up for a streaming service with the intent to cancel after viewing a specific movie or show. That figure jumps to 74% for early adopters. Clearly, content is enough to bring viewers to a platform but not enough to keep them there consistently. In this new state of streaming, providers will need to think beyond in-platform content and build emotive bonds with customers that provide a broader experience that gives customers a reason to stay loyal and creates added-value beyond a fleeting binge-watching session.

To see the full results of our in-depth research into streaming service experiences, download our Media Digital Experience Index.


About the authors

Ben SchwartzBen Schwartz serves as a senior consultant at PK. He is an MBA graduate and seasoned marketing communications strategist with 10+ years of experience serving dozens of public, private and nonprofit organizations in a variety of consulting and in-­house roles. His experience spans marketing strategy, public relations, corporate communications, sales enablement, branding, change management, employee engagement, design thinking and content marketing—all with a unifying focus on telling stories and engaging audiences. He is skilled at developing and implementing programs, leading projects and teams and managing stakeholders.

Clay Walton-HouseClay Walton-House serves as Managing Director of Integrated Loyalty Solutions at PK. He helps Fortune 500 companies create and implement new customer engagement strategies that accelerate growth and build loyalty. His expertise lies in understanding consumer behavior and translating it into actionable customer insights. Clay has a proven track record of successful program design and optimization, helping uncover ways to build retention and loyalty strategies into a company’s broader business model.