OTT Apps: Combat short attention spans, and keep users engaged
Don’t you hate it when you can’t find the row where you can continue watching the series you were watching last week? Scroll, nope that’s not it. Scroll, oh there the continue watching carousel is. Scroll scroll, scroll right because it’s not in immediately in view. Our attention spans have become shorter and shorter. So being able to find content quickly and at a moments glance is very important. Let’s take a look at why it is, and how we can provide the best experience to users while maximising the engagement.
The problem: people have a short attention span
If there’s one thing the world of social media has proven, it’s the fact that people have an increasingly shorter attention span. With the likes of TikTok and Youtube (Shorts) offering almost instant gratification in terms of viewing quick content quickly, and scrolling through immediately playing different content with ease; our attention spans have been decreasing and decreasing. The same applies to picking out content when we’re browsing the Netflixes and Amazon Primes of this world. Content needs to be visible quickly and it needs to fit our needs, otherwise we’re quickly moving.
In this in 2015 written article from Netflix, the writers (Carlos A. Gomez-Uribe and Neil Hunt) describe their experience (based on consumer research) with attention spans in across the Netflix apps. The data may not surprise you:
Consumer research suggests that a typical Netflix member loses interest after perhaps 60 to 90 seconds of choosing, having reviewed 10 to 20 titles (perhaps 3 in detail) on one or two screens. The user either finds something of interest or the risk of the user abandoning our service increases substantially.
This was back in 2015, before the big rise of the TikToks and Youtube (Shorts) of this world. Peoples attention span has only decreased since, so imagine how much time it takes now for a user to lose interest. Users need to be captivated in mere seconds, or they’ll lose interest immediately. If the time from discovery to watching is more than 60 seconds, you’re very likely to lose the user.
Showing the right content when it matters
Now that we know the problem, we also know which area to look at in order to keep users engaged: content placement and positioning. Keeping the attention of users can be achieved in many different ways. It’s however very important to do the right thing for the right type of user. You’re obviously not going to attract a fan of horror series with children content. So what should you do?
Continue watching for returning users
The most important content row, for users that have previously watched content on your service, is the one that allows ‘continue watching’. Whether users are in the middle of their series, or stopped watching a movie half-way, they want to continue what they’ve already started. It’s a great eye catcher and removes a lot of the decision-making for users. Simply continue watching what they already were.
There are some important nuances here that should also be taken into account. For example, don’t add a content detail page in between the content row and the actual video playback. Users already know the type of content, and don’t need to read more about it before they start watching.
Another point here is to only add actually partially watched content in the front of the row. Users are not going to be activated by a series or movie they’ve watched 2 minutes of, and after switched to some other content. It’s very important to highlight the actual content they’ve watched more of, rather than just ‘tried out’. You’re guaranteed to lose a portion of the users if you just show the latest content that was watched, regardless of the amount watched.
Highlight content that matches the users preference
If a user likes horror movies, they’re probably not going to like a barbie movie. Personalised content is a very important way of keeping the user active and engaged. Use the data of users that you have, and make sure they see content that actually applies to them. And that data doesn’t have to end with just whether they like horror movies or series, it can be focused on many different factors:
- The genre of the movies or series
- The actors and actresses in the content
- The director
- The length of the content
Factors like these are massively important in keeping users engaged with your service. If a user has watched a lot of content with a certain actor or actress, you’ll benefit from showing more of the content with them in it. Show thumbnails picturing that actor or actress, to further increase engagement. Does the user like short movies only and hasn’t watched any series? Have an automatically generated content row with just that type of content. Show user what fits their preference.
Word of mouth content
While the talks by the water cooler have died down a bit due to the covid situation, people still talk. A lot. They talk, or maybe chat, whatsapp, slack, or post on social media, what they have watched and what they like from what they have watched. Sharing our daily lives and what we’ve experienced has become so ingrained into the lives of many, it would be a shame to not bank on that. How do you do that? Use popularity data!
If you see that a certain content item is popular among a certain group of users, show it to them. Use popularity rows, the most watched content of the day or week. Do this for series, for movies, for certain movie genres (most popular fantasy movies). Use the data of your most watched content to your advantage.
Why content positioning and placement matters
I’m fairly certain that some of you reading this text right now, have not bothered to read all of the text. It’s yet another demonstration of how short our attention spans have gotten. And that’s exactly the problem with OTT apps as well. Users lose interest quickly and need to be captivated within seconds, if you want to keep them active in your service.
By leveraging content placement and positioning, you’ll have a better shot at keeping your users active. Show content that matches the preference of the user; show horror for a horror fan, fantasy for a fantasy fan. But go further than that. Use all of your data to make sure users get to see content that best fits their preference. Whether that’s a certain genre, a specific actress or director, or other data points that matter for your content, show what they like the most. But, most importantly, nail down the ‘continue watching’ experience. Users don’t like to search for content they’ve already started, and they shouldn’t have to, either.