Have you ever gone to a party and discussed and compared how long you watched TV the other night with your friends? Not really a common thing to discuss right?
Now try remembering if you have ever compared notes with your friends on how many episodes of House of Cards or Narcos you watched on Netflix the other night? It seems silly compared to other “real world” accomplishments and yet chances are that you’ve done it at least once.
So, what has made Netflix become such a “sticky” part of our daily life?
The hook is nothing new. From 10 member startup teams to multi-billion dollar corporations, the Hook principle is used at almost every company and is certainly not a method unique to Netflix, especially seeing some of the companies Netflix competes with.
The most simple changes, the ones that hide in plain sight, are often the most brilliant ones. And that’s exactly the kind of change Netflix made.
The simple first step was to show a prompt for the next episode. This acts as a trigger to get the user back into the hook. But that’s not enough on it’s own. There’s still a decision required on whether you want to continue watching (Investing) or not.
That’s when they introduced the simple yet ingenious change: Autoplay.
By starting the next episode automatically while the credits of the of the previous episode are running, they got rid of the viewer’s Action to start a new episode or not — thus, shortening the user’s hook to a continuous Reward and Investment.
Simple yet brilliant..
So the next time you are working on optimizing a flow for your product, don’t just ask yourself how you can make user decisions easier. Ask yourself how you can remove the user decision entirely.
Autoplay is just one of the the many smart features Netflix has implemented on it’s product to improve their Hook. It is well-known that Netflix has a strong culture of A/B Testing their ideas before productising them. This culture and practice is driven by the company’s belief that “Testing our product ideas, frees us to make big bets, to try radical or unconventional ideas”. You can read in more detail about how they go about this here.
“Testing our product ideas, frees us to make big bets, to try radical or unconventional ideas.” — John Ciancutti
Almost all of Netflix’s product investments come from it’s obsession with engagement. It’s no secret then that Reed Hastings has often identified “hours per subscriber per month” as Netflix’s KPI, which is strongly associated with customer retention and pricing. They succeed when people watch.
This strong obsession with user engagement, combined with the company’s deeply rooted culture of experimentation has helped the company come out with bold and unique products and features, optimise their Hook and make Netflix one of the most addictive products in the world.
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