Can too much personalization in OTT get ‘creepy’?

03.12.19

by Ben Tobin

Personalization has been a hot topic for years, but are companies overstepping the line? We explore the issues facing OTT operators – and how they can get it right

03.12.19

by Ben Tobin

Personalization has been a hot topic for years, but are companies overstepping the line? We explore the issues facing OTT operators – and how they can get it right

The justification goes that the better users are understood, the better they can be served with adverts that will appeal to their tastes. In return, video platform operators can charge more for ads which are targeted at the people most likely to respond favourably and buy something.

The data backlash

But, while the benefits of knowing your user and delivering a tailored experience are clear, there's a wider debate about personalization versus privacy and how comfortable people are with their data being used for targeted campaigns or other uses.

What about when a person feels that their data is not being utilized merely to deliver better service, but instead thinks they are being ‘watched’ in a potentially invasive way?

Recent survey data revealed that close to half (48%) of Americans believe that their phone is listening to them, while the same number reported that they have received an advert for something they’ve talked about near a device but never researched online.

Another frequently aired complaint is that the person can’t remember giving certain permissions to tech companies regarding what they can and can’t do with their data – leaving them puzzled at how much those organizations appear to know about them.

In this case, transparency is key. People are generally comfortable with – and indeed, expect – companies to use their data, but when they feel this goes too far; perhaps even into the immoral, then the problems begin. As users' trust erodes, there'll be a backlash against sharing data and even an increase in churn as they move away to alternative platforms.

How OTT providers can build trust

What does this mean for Deltatre and the world of OTT? Well, we want people to have the best viewing experience possible – and we are committed to helping our clients deliver this to their subscribers.

What’s more, we want those viewers to come back time and time again as they’re able to find and enjoy the content that is most relevant and tailored to their interests. This not only helps keep a service ‘sticky’ but also improves the chances that a subscriber will recommend the service to someone else.

There are many ways in which an OTT provider can build trust with its audience. Here are some examples:

  • Effective communication. Expect and respond to your consumers' pain points quickly. If something goes wrong, be transparent and rectify the situation quickly. If there’s something new or exciting for the user to see, tell them about it
  • Tone of voice. Netflix, Wendy’s, Slack – these businesses all have strong personalities. Humans relate to humans, not machines. If you invest in the quality of your communications across product, marketing, and customer support, you’ll be on to a winner
  • Accurate recommendations. 80% of consumers recognize and value a personalized experience. It’s not easy, but it is essential. Making the right steps in understanding who your audience is, what they like and dislike, and tailoring the experience to this is now essential when it comes to building a strong fan relationship

Our work has shown us that when there is a clear value proposition between handing over your data and getting a better service, consumers are generally happy

Adam Nightingale
OTT Division | SVP, Commercial

Transparency is vital

Focusing on transparency, there is a need for operators to educate and reeducate users about how their data is being stored/used, and to capture these permissions in a clear way. Users should always have the option to understand how their data is being used and have the option to amend their permissions.

Our very own Adam Nightingale, OTT Division, SVP Commercial, says: “We have to reaffirm the need for transparency, but our work has shown us that when there is a clear value proposition between handing over your data and getting a better service, consumers are generally happy.

"This needs to be reinforced continually and needs the right tools to react with agility to changing trends or consumer behaviours.”

Naturally, there are times when personalization is not necessarily the order of the day. For example, a service may have a new high-profile flagship program it wishes to promote to all its users, or there’s a particular advertising campaign that is relevant to all. But there are other moments when tailoring the service to a specific group’s viewing behaviour is imperative.

This may well be an automated process driven by algorithms and so on, but in many cases there will need to be a human element, too. This is to give a service a truly holistic and creative look and feel.

Our AXIS platform, a targeted UX management console and suite of multi-platform reference apps, has capabilities to provide a highly adaptive user experience based on data, or it can be used by human editors to deliver editorialised user experiences.

We have learned from our many customers and service deployments around the world that the most successful companies use a combination of both automated and manual personalization.

At the core of this is striking the right balance and remembering that while gathering data is important and will help with business needs, you have to give something back to customers.

Users accept that their data will be tracked, but they want something in return without feeling they’re being spied on.

This may be worthwhile and accurate programme recommendations, a user experience which is engaging, intuitive and enjoyable and, crucially, amazing content that makes them feel at the heart of what they're watching.

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