By Jason Friedlander, Director, Marketing Communications
It seems that no matter what convention I attend, the messages are always awfully similar. Last year we worked hard to create a story around 1:1 session management and personalized viewing experiences – and sure enough, at the convention after that, the same message seemed to be in everyone else’s booth as well.
Flattery aside, the experience opened my eyes to how we, as an industry, must move beyond the copycat game – the “me too” culture – and innovate our message, our platforms and our services to truly make our customers successful in their endeavors.
Media companies must push toward real innovation instead of simply adopting the buzzwords du jour – buzzwords that they think customers want to hear to help steal away their competition’s business. For example, a lot of companies claim to have an “end-to-end platform” without defining what that means or looks like or how it truly benefits the customer. It’s not enough to talk the talk anymore; we must start to show how our technology is different and forward-thinking – how our services stand apart from one another and how we really are offering our customers the best way forward for their business.
Adopting the tech industry’s chutzpah
For innovation inspiration, there’s no better place to look than at the broader tech industry. It’s easy to see how they’ve used a mix of copycatting with a huge heap of innovation to leapfrog their progress forward – they’re doing it by looking ahead to what customers still don’t know they need, instead of simply reacting to what customers say they want. It’s one thing to add a similar feature to your stack, but it’s another to add innovation of that feature to truly stand out.
E-commerce companies are great examples. The successful ones net billions of dollars in transactions each year, but they are also regularly performing live tests in an attempt to surpass their current status quo and streamline their products to make them the most successful they can be, nearly every minute of every day. Developers are constantly running tests: for example, changing their websites’ colors, sizes and shapes to see how it affects every part of the user experience. This testing enables them to learn how to successfully affect consumer behavior to increase sales or brand loyalty. Even the most minute details can influence buyers, and these companies are constantly refining their offerings with an eye on that.
Facebook is a great example of a tech company that doesn’t wait around to see what their customers ask for, but instead innovates relentlessly by monitoring their customers’ psychology. The tech giant is constantly testing new features like a second, embedded news feed to see what keeps users engaged and clicking, even when the users are not aware of it themselves. Not every one of Facebook’s changes has made users happy, but the company keeps trying. By 2016, the average person spent nearly an hour a day on Facebook’s all-encompassing platform thanks to this constant risk taking.
What all of these innovative companies have in common is their willingness to embrace change and learn from it – sometimes even before their customers are aware they want or need it!
It’s night and day when compared to the over-the-top (OTT) ecosystem, where service providers don’t always offer customers a full suite of tools to run their business the same way. One small example is a real gap in running tests on their platforms or applications to easily see how subtle changes can affect their brand and viewing habits.
It’s tough to take risks and make huge changes if you don’t know for sure that your customers will respond favorably to those changes. But playing it safe isn’t what got companies like Facebook where they are today. OTT companies are in a unique position to research technology innovations based on data we see from the millions of users that are watching content on our platforms each day, and we need to act on that position now. We need to provide this data with tools to react to it for our customers to use so they can innovate by modernizing their users’ viewing experiences or determining what type of content to produce and how to best monetize it.
As service providers, we need to stop looking at what the competition is doing and instead start thinking about what our customers need for success. A customer doesn’t buy our service because of the tagline; a customer comes to us because our tagline has the technology to back it up.
Our Content Intelligence System, the Verizon Media Xperience Studio, is one early example of innovation in action. We’re still testing the system to ensure that it meets our customer’s’ expectations and also anticipates future needs that may not even be present yet. It’s not a people-pleasing buzzword, but a new way of thinking about content.
While it’s difficult to move from catering to customers’ past wishes to looking forward to their future needs, it’s the change our industry requires to catapult user experiences into the 21st century – so we can all watch better TV.