Owens used findings from a research project showing the United States uses far more toilet paper than many European countries. On the surface, interesting, but the reason why is the actual lesson. The crucial message threaded throughout Owens’ Webinar is this: “Scientia potentia est,” which translates into a common saying, “Knowledge is power.”
Owens’ point is that the use of toilet paper is different among its consumers. The study found Americans used more toilet paper based on the way they wrap it around their hand, and Spain, France and Italy folded just a couple of sheets. This intelligence is valuable in terms of sales and advertising since you can conclude from this data that U.S. consumers want paper that is thick and soft while the European countries want strong and resistant paper.
So, how does this relate to the publishing industry? Media companies need more knowledge to know how to satisfy the user experience for the customer, Owens said.
Owens broke consumer intelligence down into four pillars: behaviour, context, content, and profile. Each is aimed at personalising the user experience for the many different ways consumers use products.
- Behaviour: Different behaviours should mean a different experience for each user. “If I read 10 articles in a row once a week or one every day, that’s different,” he said. “If I read long articles or short articles, those are different behaviours, and based on that I might not be expecting the same experience.”
- Context: Owens wants media companies to be aware of newer ways customers may be consuming content. It’s not just mobile or desktop anymore. People are consuming on smartwatches, or they have their Alexa or Google Home devices read stories out loud to them. He suggests these methods be taken into account as well.
- Content: Perhaps the easiest pillar for media companies to understand, users want different content based on their interests and come to different media companies to satisfy their different needs.
- Profile: Owens cautioned this pillar is often misused in analytics. Stereotypes often come into play and you can’t assume a person’s interests based solely on their gender or age for example, he said: “Profile information can be interesting, but it has to be associated with the rest of the pillars to really build that intelligence.”
Owens provided three different case studies to illustrate his points:
Owens highlighted how BBC handles personalisation with a global audience. BBC and Piano have been so successful working together because Piano offers a central area, or one giant space to store a company’s data. BBC was then able to record all the interactions the brand had with a specific user.
“We can basically either focus on the global aspect or on a very micro-segment or very specific base,” he said.
So BBC found success in offering users a list of the most-read stories for their area and then used information based on their login profile and another very crucial element.
“They would never forget to use the user’s behavioural data as well,” he said. “Do they come often? How interested are they in different content? What are their favourite topics.”
Owens took a look at how French publication Le Monde handled a surge of a completely new audience during COVID-19. The publication was concerned it would have a big boost in subscriptions — subscriptions it could lose post-COVID.
So Le Monde came up with a way to satisfy what it called the old and new audience.
“They actually have original traffic and then this whole new audience that barely ever interacted with Le Monde that all of a sudden came along and got a subscription and they’re reading like they’re binging on the content every single day,” he said.
To satisfy the old and new audiences, Le Monde built two live feeds on its app and Web site: One that talked about the COVID virus and another that addressed the lockdown situation. Le Monde teams also had daily meetings and proposed evergreen, relevant content based on data to gently push to consumers to keep them engaged.
“They actually did manage to keep a lot of retention and still are retaining a lot of users that are satisfied with Le Monde’s content,” he said. “This was a very clever strategy that helped them seize this opportunity where they got a lot of subscriptions to retain users as well and better monetide their activity.”
This case study has the most eye-opening statistics shared by Owens on the importance of personalisation, he said. French sports publication L’Equipe went from sending push notifications based on popularity of sport to using user intelligence to sending pushes based on the consumer’s interests and behaviour. The company saw 30 times the open rate on pushes and 27 times the opening rate on e-mails.
The more relevant content is to to the user, the more likely they are not to block notifications and ultimately disengage completely from the media brand, Owens said.
Owens warned of setting parameters too tightly, advising media companies to make sure they have enough content to offer so user do not get stuck with content they see as repetitive.
“You might have said, I think I’ve seen everything on Netflix. I’ve gone all the way around and actually, you haven’t. It’s maybe because you’re in a bubble,” he said.
Owens believes when this happened to people, especially during COVID lockdowns when usage went up dramatically, this is when Netflix introduced new ways to get users to interact, like the Top 10 list of titles being watched in locally.
INMA Webinars are free to members. Check here for future Webinars and recordings of past Webinars.