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How to keep users more engaged in your video app

In our latest guest post, Jodi Susman, Chief Marketing Officer at mobile video streaming experts Penthera, shares her top engagement tips for in-app video.

People are spending more time on their phones than ever before. Even as people stayed home for a significant amount of time in 2020, mobile devices still grew in popularity. In fact, the coronavirus pandemic has advanced mobile usage by 2 to 3 years — accelerating the transition to a mobile-first world (App Annie 2020). Video is an enormous driver of this mobile boom, and in 2020 U.S. adults spent 5 additional minutes per day on average watching digital video on their mobile devices (eMarketer). As it grows in popularity, more and more apps are savvily including video as part of their mobile strategy.

Yet this growth means even as an increasing number of people look to mobile video content for their entertainment, educational, and fitness needs (among others), video providers are having to compete more fiercely for viewers’ time and attention. Though there’s more time being spent  with mobile video across the board, there are more providers trying to get a share of that time. So whatever type of in-app video you offer, you need a plan not just for high quality content production, but also a plan to ensure users stay engaged in your app.

Getting a new subscriber or viewer is hard in such a saturated market, so it’s crucial that once someone has downloaded your app that their experience is seamless—to decrease the likelihood of churn. Churn remains a challenge even among the most popular mobile apps. In a survey conducted by Deloitte in October 2020, 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last year—up from 20% in a similar survey from January 2020. Further,  62% said the reason they cancelled was that they finished the show or movie that they had signed up to watch.

Luckily, there are a few tricks of the trade that can help prevent churn, keep your users engaged in your app, and get them to watch even more content. Here are some of the most effective.

1. Make content discovery easy with smart recommendations.

With so many options across different services and apps, consumers often feel overwhelmed when choosing what to watch. In fact, 50% of consumers say they would cancel an OTT service that offered an overwhelming amount of content or a challenging content discovery system (Zemoga 2020).

To increase engagement, it’s important not just to offer great content a user might want to watch, but to ensure they are easily able to find that content. Make sure your app’s video content is organized well and offers strategic recommended content based on not only viewers’ watch history but the time of day, the type of device they’re on, their user profiles and more.

2. Include auto-play and auto-downloading features so users can watch continuously without friction.

Binge watching grew in 2020 (Roku 2020), and it’s increasingly a popular way to watch serialized programming, which is often released in full seasons. If you offer serialized content, whether a TV show, fitness program, or beyond, you want to make binging frictionless for your viewers. Instead of users needing to press a button to watch the next episode, it should automatically play to entice viewers to stay tuned. Some services even auto-play recommended content once a viewer has completed a series or movie.

Similarly, for viewers who download content to watch on unreliable wifi networks, an auto-download feature makes binging easier, too. Netflix’s auto-download feature, known as Smart Download, will automatically delete a downloaded video once it’s been viewed and download the next one in the series, so the user doesn’t have to initiate a download every time they want to watch.

The less work a viewer has to do to watch more content, the more likely they are to stay engaged in your app.

3. Use push notifications and email marketing to stay on users’ minds.

The average smartphone user has 40 apps on their phone and spends 89% of their mobile time with just 18 of those (Simform). That means when a user isn’t in your app, you’re competing to stay on their minds and on their home screens. So it's as important as ever to market to your users with emails and push notifications. However, it’s crucial to do so in a way that isn’t spammy and that actually provides value to users so they’ll keep paying attention.

Data show that there’s a strong correlation between personalized, relevant communication and the number of monthly active users an app has. A recent study from Apptopia showed that during the months surrounding the launch of Disney+, top performing video apps were 21% more likely to send push notifications. Leveraging your content recommendations system, you can send messages about videos a user may enjoy viewing, new seasons of a show they’ve watched before, or other similar content that encourages them to open up your app and watch again, instead of spending their free time in one of the other video apps on their phone.

4. When possible, make cross-platform viewing possible and seamless.

Users interact with several devices throughout any given day. They may spend their mornings on their phone, their afternoons on their laptops, and their evenings watching content on their smart TV (probably browsing their phone at the same time). A mobile app is crucial, but it’s vital to be available wherever your users want to watch content and to make viewing on different devices a smooth process.

Part of this is ensuring you offer the same quality and features across devices. If your app works great on an iPhone but is glitchy on a tablet, users will be frustrated and may stop engaging with you across all devices. Plus, take into account the diversity of viewing experiences that any user may have. If a user watches half of a video on their connected TV and then tries to finish it later on their phone, the mobile app should be updated the moment they open it and have their video waiting right where they left off.

To learn more about how streaming services are developing, and more verticals are incorporating video content into their apps, take a look at Penthera’s information and resources. For more on video streaming, you can read our Mobile Streaming Report 2021 blog here.

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