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Behavioural Science behind the scene of Netflix

Gone are the days we had to gather around in front of the TV at a particular time on a particular day to watch the new episode of our favourite show. In today's world everyone uses at least one of the OTT platforms which make any TV show or movie you want to watch available at the click of a few keys. Platforms such as Netflix and Prime have undoubtedly made it extremely convenient to watch our favourite shows. But have you ever wondered what Behavioural Science principles are hiding behind your favourite OTT products? Let us deep dive into the question “How does Netflix keep you hooked?” to discover an answer to this question.

1. Behavioural Segmentation:

Gone are the days where marketers used only demographic information such as age and gender to target product advertisement. Nowadays, companies can leverage data from its customers to identify behavioural patterns and use that as a basis for marketing and advertisement. Netflix is one of the best examples of use of behavioural segmentation. 

“It doesn't really matter if you are a 60 year old woman or a 20 year old man because a 20 year old man can watch Say Yes to the Dress and a 60 year old woman can watch Hellboy.”

-Todd Yellin, VP Product Innovation, Netflix

By using behavioural segmentation, Netflix is able to recommend movies based on what you previously watched and liked by matching it with the views of other individuals watching similar or same products. Not just that, did you know that the image of a show or movie you see on your screen is also based on your viewing habits? This means if you have seen a lot of movies with a particular actor in it, Netflix will ensure that the actor's character appears on the homepage image. Netflix uses behavioural segmentation to not only suggest content and the design of landing pages but also the layout of your homepage. 

2. Social Proofing:

Social Proof can be described as the tendency of individuals to follow and copy the action of others to decide how to behave in similar situations. Have you looked up reviews and recommendations before buying products? That is social proof at work. Netflix employs this behavioural technique to nudge viewers towards watching specific content. How often than not have you watched something on the top 10 list of Netflix just because it features on the top 10? Because I am sure I have watched a lot of movies and TV shows in these categories. Netflix’s “TOP 10 TV SHOWS” and “Trending Now” categories are the best examples of social proof at work.

3. Cocktail Party Effect: 

Have you ever been engaged in a conversation only to be suddenly distracted by hearing your name (or even something sounding similar to your name)? The cocktail party effect refers to the fact that our ability monitors the social environment for self-relevant cues in a nonconscious manner. This is used by Netflix to get your attention when it shares its recommendations with you by tagging certain movies or films as Top picks for <your name>.

4. Use of Defaults

Defaults are perhaps the simplest way to quietly nudge individuals into doing something and Netflix is well aware of that. How often have you started a show only to realise that you have passed hours watching it? The auto-playing option on netflix in one way defaults are used to keep you bingeing. Such a simple but definitely quite an influential way to keep you watching  

5. Dealing with Idleness Aversion

Do you remember the example from the previous blog on wait time optimization where we discussed how an elevator with a mirror seems faster than an elevator without one? Idleness aversion is the psychological principle that says people are happier when they are busy. The auto-playing video on your screen when you open Netflix and the commencement of a trailer when you hover over a show's poster are two major features employed by Netflix to capture your attention.

However, it is important to remember that BeSci tools are not a one-size fit all solution to your problems. Here is an example of a feature which did not work out well even after being based on BeSci principles.

6. Dealing with decision fatigue (at least trying to)

The paradox of choice is undoubtedly an interesting phenomenon. How many times have you been at a new restaurant trying to figure out what to order but being totally confused by all the choices in front of you? Decision fatigue is one common problem all of us face when trying to find something to watch on Netflix because of the plethora of options available at the click of our fingertips. To help users Netflix came up with a new feature back in 2021 called “Surprise Me” or “Play Me Something” which automatically played content for the users trying to mirror TV watching experience. However, this did not play out well and was ultimately discontinued. The reason? Low usage by users. This did not work as well as a similar feature on Spotify. Perhaps because unlike a 3 mins song on spotify, you cannot decide if you like a movie or show in 3 mins. And we all know how frustrating it is to spend 3 hours watching a movie only to realise how bad it is. 

Now you know the different behavioural science principles to look out for the next time you open Netflix! Whether it is recommending you shows based on your previous history or nudging you to watch what everyone else is watching around you, the team at Netflix has done a splendid job incorporating Behavioral Science in their product. Continue reading our new blogs to find more Behavioural Science applications hidden in plain sight around you.

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