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Netflix, you don’t know diddly about context!

NetflixBy now, there has been enough evangelization of “engagement” to posit two things:

  1. Engagement with a brand is essential to achieving customer loyalty, and
  2. Consumers will only engage if they find the experience(s) to be relevant.

Therefore, all roads to customer loyalty (the holy grail among customer experience advocates) must pass through relevancy.

But what is relevancy? Well, “pertinence to the matter at hand” is a good place to start, according to The Free Online Dictionary. But to dig a bit deeper, the matter at hand implies a need for context, and context requires an understanding of who is involved and what their circumstances are at the time. It is this temporal aspect that is often forgotten and requires further exploration.

In the customer experience era, brands are beginning to understand the critical importance of gathering insights about their customers and then orchestrating their content, offerings, and assets around these understandings. This “outside-in” enlightenment is a huge step, but personalization alone doesn’t account for the increasingly mobile world we all inhabit.

My colleague Tim Walters has recently written that mobility is the key to ubiquity, and it is ubiquity that adds to the complexity of context. Suddenly, considerations such as where someone is, what their state of mind is, what they are trying to accomplish, how much time they have at their disposal, et cetera, are all factors to consider in the game of relevancy. What is relevant to one person at one point in time may not be the slightest bit relevant to the same person in another instance. This is why mere personalization can be so, er, irrelevant.

In some circumstances, personalization in isolation of context can be outright dangerous for a brand. Or, at best, annoying. Take Netflix as a prime example. Next to, Netflix is likely the most oft-cited example of a high-quality, perfectly tailored experience. But, to a father of three children ages 6, 4, and 2, it’s actually quite frustrating. I love to use the service to watch movies on my wifi-enabled television at home, but every time I do, I’m bombarded with Barney, Ninja Turtles, and Cinderella. Why? Because Netflix on the iPhone is the best way to have a civil dinner in a public restaurant with three children under age six.

Lazy parenting aside, can’t Netflix just learn that when I’m in a restaurant (that I just navigated to using Google maps on my phone) it’s not me who’s watching the latest episode of Mickey Mouse? Can’t it realize that when I’m watching television on my 60-inch flat-screen in my Man Cave after 9pm on a school night that I do not want to watch The Little Mermaid? That would make sense, wouldn’t it?

In honor one of my favorite athletes of all time, “Netflix knows” personalization. But, Netflix, you don’t know diddly about context!

Relevance is key to a great customer experience, and it is indeed personal. However, personalization without context in today’s world is often not relevant at all.

This post was originally featured on the Inside CXM website on Oct 16, 2013.


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