The streaming revolution has driven a shift in viewer behavior as more consumers flock to streaming apps for programming to brighten dreary days in lockdown. But SonyLIV, the video-on-demand service owned by Sony Pictures Networks India, which is also available in the U.S. via Sling, is not just seeing usage numbers explode. The company uses a smart approach to data and segmentation enabled by CleverTap to stop churn before it starts, increasing engagement in this at-risk segment by over 70%. Users don’t just re-engage with the app; they spend nearly double the time in-app. In episode #415 of our bi-weekly series Reimagine Growth, our host Peggy Anne Salz talks with Manish Dhanwani, Senior Marketing Manager at SonyLIV. Manish shares how his company buckets users into six segmentation according to how recently and frequently they engage with the app. He also shares how SonyLIV combines streaming and gaming to let users be characters in shows and part of the stories they love.
Thanks, Ricky, and thank you for joining Mobile Presence. I’m your host, as always, Peggy Anne Salz, mobile analyst, tech consultant and founder of Mobile Groove. And of course now in this particular episode bringing you Reimagine Growth, a special mini-series on retention marketing brought to you by CleverTap, retention is the new growth, we’ve been talking about it all this year, we’ll talk about it next year as well because it is top of mind, a single digit increase in retention can mean double or even triple digit increase in profits – that’s why we’re focused on retention and particularly engagement best practices and talking to the marketers moving the needle on retention.
And we’re going to look today at a vertical that has been experiencing explosive, massive growth but growth doesn’t mean that customers are coming back. The vertical is streaming and we have been seeing massive growth because of where we are, we’re confined in our homes, in our apartments, we’re eager naturally to engage with entertainment and we look to India, the world’s fastest growing market for streaming and we’re going to learn from one major player there, namely SonyLIV, the video on-demand service owned by Sony Pictures Networks India which is seeing growing revenues, deepening engagement and they’re seeing this because they are also designing flows to improve the user experience.
My guest is a growth hacking strategist, he’s sharply focused on partnerships, subscription growth, retention, customer engagement, customer analytics, the work. So, I welcome today Manish Dhanwani, he is Senior Marketing Manager, as I said, at SonyLIV, and it’s great to have you here today, Manish, I think you are in headquartered in Mumbai as well – is that correct?
That’s right, Peggy, thank you for the warm welcome.
And as I said, Mumbai, I was there one time when we could travel, one of my favourite cities, it’s so vibrant, action, colour, everything – that is really where the action is as well is in programming, I’ve seen some great programs come out of there and you’re available in the US as well with Sling – is that correct?
Yes, we are available in the US and we are available via Sling out there.
I’m reading that all subscription companies from software to healthcare to streaming have been growing massively over the last couple of years. What’s the situation there, what have you seen?
This actually is a very rapidly rising phenomena. India is the world’s fastest growing ODT market, right, and unfortunately because of coronavirus, we also have seen a booming growth in the ODT market here in India, ODT video along with internet advertising, video games, e-sports, music, radio, podcasts, so basically anything that people do from your home has actually seen an exponential growth in that sense.
The Covid-19 crisis has affected the global market for ODT in a positive way. According to a very recent research report, the global ODT market was accounted for $110 billion in 2018. It’s expected to reach $438.5 billion by growing at a healthy growth rate of 19.1%. That is just to outline, that is to just put in perspective the growth that the ODT market is at the moment and the growth rate is going to be offering in the next coming years in the ODT space. Stay at home users have been watching more streaming content than ever before and the traffic has certainly increased giving a rise to the relevant KPIs that we monitor at our end.
So we agree that traffic has increased but of course that’s getting people into the funnel – you’ve been looking at the data and figuring out onboarding experiences, segmentation approaches to keep people in the funnel, move them through the funnel, get them to ultimately commit. Maybe you can tell me a little bit about the user experience and the onboarding because you’ve also experimented and you’ve found something that works.
Earlier, the user used to launch the app and wait for content to pop up, there were certain hiccups in the discovery of content, certain playbacks were not happening, the bufferings at the back end were improper. So we took an entire stop and to give the users a proper experience or a pleasant experience, what we could do or what we did is we ended up, you know, ensuring that a keystore, MVP analysis are being done and are being done correctly. By MVP analysis we mean the minimum viable product that a user seeks for in the market to pay for any subscription service, right?
So, we after were having our consumer research in place, we ensured that we are coming up with an MVP which is the minimum viable product in this case and after that we came up with a lot of our own originals, earlier we would capture platform means if you see something that you missed out on live TV, it’s something you will be able to capture on our platform, we were normally perceived as a capture content specialist in the eyes of the consumer.
That focus shifted after we acquired users and after we ensured that our content in the form of originals was out there on our platform, we’ve seen a paradigm shift in the consumer behaviour. We’ve solved a lot of content discovery partners, we’ve solved a lot of buffering issues and the onboarding has just been seamless. We explained the benefits of the new app on our product once a user comes in, the new feature product explanation video was showcased wherein we could tell the users about the new features that we’ve added on which served as a delight for the older consumers and served as a moment of consumer wow-ness for the new customers that we acquired.
So this way, retention plus acquisition were the major focus and it is showing a substantial lift in the consumer retention/return journey partners on our app.
So I’m really getting a very action-focused onboarding experience, there’s education but there’s also segmentation right there.
Right, absolutely. So, you know, we have clustered or segmented our consumers obviously with the help of the tool called CleverTap, we have been able to cluster our consumers into various buckets and accordingly have been able to focus on the right consumer movement/journey from there on.
So, say for example, Peggy, if you are a user of SonyLIV, right, and it’s been a month that you haven’t been available on my platform, the primary bucket of clustering that falls into place is the active and inactive. For a company like ours where we promise a new story to be released every Friday, it’s a nightmare of a situation to be into when you see that the consumers are not returning to you even after four continuous weeks of good storytelling that we’ve come up with.
That kind raises an alarm and such alarms are only solved by primary resolve of clustering the user into an active and inactive bucket following the RFM metrics which is recency, frequency and monetary, because eventually we may offer content for free on the platform but we also have our premium content which is live sports and originals for richer user and get access to only if he is a paid consumer.
Much to our delight, we have ringfenced our consumers into 6 broad categories, one is a star consumer, obviously he’s a power user of our platform, active consumer means a guy who is just about to become a power user, he’s started to explore and continuously engages with your application. After that we come into the category of OTV, this means a consumer who is on the brink and it is important for me to ringfence those consumers so that they don’t fall or they don’t go back into the inactive category so these are our more cautious points. Obviously the inactive segments are lapsers and the bouncers – lapser means a consumer who has lapsed because of a particular experience with your product and in this case these are those consumers who would have sometime encountered that they aren’t interested or that they aren’t very comfortable watching content with us and hence have moved out.
Bouncers are those consumers who have used our application only once in the past six months and have never come back, right? In spite of our repeated attempts to get the consumer back, it becomes a little bit of trouble to continuously engage with the consumers and hence we classify them as a consumer who was a bouncer.
So these are the broad segments that we have classified for ourselves.
And I love the fact that you’re sharing these as well, Manish, because a lot of marketers are just thinking about segmentation, you know, what are the buckets – you start out with two which I think is very smart – active, inactive, and then you go from the viewing patterns and you understand and continue to refine and define segments that are really helpful. We do have to go to a break just now, Manish, but when we come back we’ll be talking about the signs of churn, what do you do and some of your accomplishments as well. So listeners, don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
Welcome back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz, we have today Manish Dhanwani, Senior Marketing Manager at SonyLIV. And before the break, Manish, we were talking about your approach to segmentation, a lot in there, I hope that everyone really checks out the show notes because there’s a lot to learn from there but of course segmentation is just one point. Every marketer wants to stop churn before it starts – what does an at risk user look like to you?
At risk user is a guy who has given you indications that he is no longer interested in your service or eventually starts off at a tipping point by saying that he is going to be withdrawing from your services soon. Being a marketer, how is it that you can identify these segments? One major, major clue point here is to identify whether that particular consumer or whether that cluster of active consumers have all been showing a downward movement in terms of the viewership spent. I’ll give you a very valuable example, right?
We saw that at our end after the relaunch of the new app, we had to include a mandatory post-upgrade for the older consumers so that they could come ahead and they could have sampled the new app. What happened is my power users which are my active and the star consumers, they ended up upgrading soonest, my inactive consumers were as always a little slow because they always need an extra nudge/recommendation from elsewhere. My at risk consumers showed me the biggest alarm of not being able to upgrade to the newer app.
So what we did is we evaluated if these folks are even active on the older app. Much to our surprise, we saw that these guys have not interacted with us in the older app and are very reluctant to upgrade to the newer app. As marketers, what did we do? We collected the data obviously, and we resorted to paid media advertising wherein we spoke with them about the new show, we targeted these customers, we targeted these set of customers with the testimonial series along with our from our power pack users which is active and star consumers, and we just attempted to give them an extra nudge over and above the normal nudge that you would have given to a consumer. All this in the interest of our consumers trying to upgrade to the newer app.
So with this, we were able to convert approximately 73% of at risk consumers and we are delighted to say that these 73% consumers, their viewership at the moment they came onto the newer app, their viewership time went up by 1.8x. A consumer who is normally spending 10 minutes now began to spend 18 minutes.
I’d be interested in hearing about a campaign accomplishment that you’re proudest of. I mean, we’ve been talking about the numbers, that’s really quite a jump, you know, I know the numbers when people normally say they can do something, 15-20%, we’re talking about 70% – 38% once you know what kind of programming they want and want to see, and in prep we also talked about one show, Scam 1992, that has me thinking because it’s a little bit like the Wolf of Wall Street, but very Indian, very local and focused – 140% increase in subscriptions I think you told me about that one – is that the one that really stands out?
Yes, absolutely it does. So, you’ve actually got the figures bang on. So, what happened, Peggy, okay – let me tell you about a very recent campaign that we did so to promote to – how did we go about increasing the viewership and subscriptions, right, that might be some dope for the marketers to take home. Peggy, what phone are you using? Are you on an iPhone or an Android?
I have an iPhone.
Whenever you get a mobile push notification on your iOS handset, you have to click and you get redirected to a particular brand’s page internally – is that the flow that you normally see for mobile push notifications on your handset?
How about me delivering a trailer to you on your handset or a short promo of 30 seconds on your handset, on your iOS device and you’re just clicking on it and the video just starts playing right over there without any redirection.
That would be very cool, that’s instant gratification as we’d say in marketing, which is what you’re supposed to have.
Absolutely. So, I’m very, very happy to have that feedback from you because this is exactly what we did and that is exactly what we, you know, were able to do as the first ODT business. We delivered a promo right to the handset of the iOS users and we could deliver a view right there. For consumers, once he or she clicks on a push notification, it is a tedious or a cumbersome process which is dependent on many factors like your data speed, the website responding, the app not hanging and the device being able to finally, you’re on a touchscreen. So there’s a lot of factors which go into determining that okay, this is how a push notification has to perform.
We just evolved a hack through it wherein we were able to deliver a view or promote our latest key offerings and we were able to cross-sell. How did we do that? We saw that our iOS device users were lot skewed towards English content, right? For obvious reasons, because they are the cream of the audience and they would want to watch the likes of For Life and the Good Doctor. What we did is, we promoted a Scam promo, the series that you were talking about, we promoted a Scam 30 second promo which is specially made for iOS customers and when we delivered a push notification to the iOS handsets, and the moment you clicked on it, the promo started playing right there.
We arrested the entire movement of the consumer or the inconvenience to the consumer of clicking on it, going to the platform and then the platform taking care of it, so we would have heard a while back there was a phenomenon in the dot com industry which is about a two-click payment – you click on a push notification, you land up on the payment page and that’s why we used to call it two-click payments. Here, we’ve introduced a one-click video view right on your handset.
That is very smart, very smart indeed. I’ll have to look and see – I have not seen that and usually when I’m getting something, you know, full disclosure, I can’t get your service so I have to get a competitor service and when I do get the competitor service, I’m taken to a whole bunch of stuff that may or may not be relevant and then I have to wade through it. So, it’s a very different experience indeed.
Absolutely it is.
And that was 140% uplift on subscriptions, so this isn’t just engagement, this means that people said this is great, I’m going to subscribe to the service – correct?
Yes, because we were very confident of the product that we had built or the series that was called Scam, it was obviously a real life story about a financial scam that happened way back in India in 1992 and much to our delight, the consumers also started to like it, it started to resonate with a lot of consumers and the word of mouth just happened to make it go viral and we banked upon organic ways of marketing and growing from thereon and helped us save a lot of marketing dollars.
That is a great story and I have to say that when I was researching this show, I was like this sounds pretty cool, I want to watch this because I was – in fact it inspired to look at some other shows maybe not produced by you but just to have an appreciation of the very cool drama coming out of India right now. We do have to take one last break, Manish, but when I come back, we’re going to talk about again some great topics, maybe even a couple more hacks, who knows? We’ll be right back after the break.
And we’re back to Mobile Presence and I’m your host of course, Peggy Anne Salz. We have Manish Dhanwani, Senior Marketing Manager at SonyLIV and for this show we have been talking about what you’re doing as a streaming company, your segmentation, sharing some of that knowledge, sharing some of that best practice but you’re also interested in gaming. Tell me about the fit.
We wanted to give our users a delight or a wow moment so that they get to bond with us, we wanted to become, we certainly wished to become a one-stop entertainment destination for our users and that’s how the fit for gaming comes across on our platform. You know, how about let me just ask you, Peggy, have you seen Friends? That’s our most famous example that comes to me.
Oh yeah, yes.
How about me coming up with a game which tells you that you are Rachel, you’d be doing a whole play of Rachel and there’s Ross at the other end who’s trying to woo you and is trying to flirt around with you, is trying to make amends with you? What I’ve done here is I have intelligently blended the consumer into my IP and I have given the consumer the feel of what it feels like playing the field with character onboard.
That is how on SonyLIV we look at gaming. We look at gaming, you know, giving the consumers a chance to feel like – to live up the character, how it feels like to be one of them.
That is fascinating. Am I going to see that elsewhere or is that really just in India at this point in time?
We’re not sure about elsewhere but certainly we’ve given it a short tail.
Cool, I will continue with the idea of communications and entertainment here. I’d like to understand a little bit more about your tastes. So what’s been your favourite character so far, what is the game where you’re saying, hey, this is pretty cool – I don’t think you want to be Rachel!
Oh, no, not really. There is a stand-up comedy show which comes up on Sony Networks Live TV entertainment channel and it is called the Kapil Sharma Show. A lot of folks, a lot of ex-pats out there would be aware of this show in particular and hence I’m quoting this example.
So what we’ve done is we have said the Kapil Sharma at the other end and I have pitted myself against Kapil Sharma and let’s see who wins the game of Ludo. Well, he’s the king of comedy but I get to be the king of Ludo whenever I defeat Kapil Sharma. So that’s a pride that a user gets into and that’s the moment of joy for the consumer that he’s finally beaten the king of comedy, the so-called king of comedy.
That is interesting and of course also that experience, you know, you’re bringing it to life literally, it’s fun, fun for you as well but also goes right back into the funnel we’re talking about, the more I play with the game, the more engaged I am with the show, the more I am engaged with you, SonyLIV, the more I’m also going to subscribe and use the app frequently. So it all makes sense. This has been a fascinating show and a fascinating interview with you, Manish, I’ve been really excited to have a couple of sort of, yes, sneak peeks and scoops into what this can look like, truly, truly, some things that we’ll be seeing hopefully in the States at some point.
But in the meantime, you know, our listeners might say, hey, that was pretty cool, I want to understand that growth hack, delivering the video to the iOS devices or I want to have an idea around these games or, you know, whatever – how can they stay in touch with you, what’s the best way to continue the conversation?
They can drop a line to me at my email ID, firstname.lastname@example.org. I will have it sent across and, yes, I would be more than happy to kind of start this learning straight over email as well and, yes. As always, happy to help the marketers, the budding folks as well. So let’s get out there and make some sense for our consumers.
That is fantastic and we have those in the show notes as well and of course to help marketers, organisations and our listeners as they drive customer connection and re-enter the market post-Covid 19, CleverTap continues with its Reimagine Growth series of webinars, it’s all over at #reimaginegrowth and in the Reimagine Growth webinar series, it’s all about lifting the lid on top mobile brands, how they’re successfully handling acquisition engagement retention right now so get ready to grow and check it all out over at clevertap.com/reimaginegrowth.
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