Thu. Apr 22nd, 2021


The company conducted a series of surveys in 2020 to understand streaming habits, service cancellation, and incentives to retain customers.

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Image: iStock/monsitj

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way people work, learn, socialize, and more on short notice. Amid lockdown restrictions and limitations on social gatherings, many people are opting for streaming services to fill the ample downtime at home. On Tuesday, Deloitte published a blog about consumer habits related to selecting a streaming subscription, canceling the service, and strategies to potentially spur retention.

Deloitte conducted three surveys in 2020 to understand the streaming habits of US consumers. At the beginning of 2020, consumers in the US were subscribed to three paid streaming services on average and this jumped to five paid services by October, according to the report. About a quarter of respondents (23%) said they had added one streaming service at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

While consumers appear to be juggling many services, the expected lifespan of a paid subscription is at times rather short-lived. Deloitte’s January 2020 survey determined that about one-in-five respondents had dropped a paid subscription service in the last year. However, by October, nearly half (46%) had eliminated a minimum of one service in the last six months.  Although the company said that this “may be partly driven by economic pressures.”

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The report also attempts to understand the reasons behind service cancellations. In May, 14% of respondents said they had canceled a service because they could access this content on another provider’s service for free and this jumped to nearly one-quarter of respondents in October. Among those subscribed to leading providers, nearly one-in-five (19%) said they “don’t feel strongly about any of their services” and “most” said “they could live without their services.”

Ad-free experiences hold notable appeal for consumers and this allure is increasing amid the pandemic. In May, 17% of consumers opted for a new service due to the subscriptions’ ad-free experiences and this surged 10% by October. The number of consumers who subscribed to a minimum of one free service supported by ads jumped to 60% from 40% between January and October.

Consumers often make up their minds about nixing subscriptions on short notice leaving providers with a narrow window to retain these subscribers. For example, about six-in-10 respondents said they signed up for a service because of a particular show and “cancelled once they were done” and 43% did so on “the same day they decided they no longer wanted the service.”

Overall, more than one-quarter (27%) said they wouldn’t cut a plan if they were able to “see an exclusive new movie or series they were interested in.” A similar number of respondents said they’d keep a subscription if they were able to drop to an ad-supported version of the service at a reduced cost. Instant access to the latest content could be the key to consumer retention as 23% said they’d keep a service if they were able to see movies the day they were released in theaters.

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Aside from incentivizing customers with same-day theatrical releases or reducing pricing options, Deloitte also suggests that streaming providers could more aptly leverage their existing data streams and viewer profiles to boost retention and loyalty.

“Data analytics can enable greater experimentation while lowering risk, helping providers make smarter decisions when developing or acquiring content. For example, they can better predict which combination of stories and actors will resonate with specific audience segments, then develop targeted marketing to get the content in front of those subscribers,” the report said. 

Enhanced subscriber modeling could allow providers to more accurately match audiences and “relevant advertising,” the report explains, noting that “one of the largest and most mature paid streaming video services,” has effectively leveraged these capabilities to foster retention and growth.

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