What Netflix Habits Reveal About Your Target Audience

Viewers' "recently watched" lists offer insights that can help marketers deliver highly targeted messages. "Santa Clarita Diet," anyone?

learn more about Deren Baker

By Deren Baker

Saeed Adyani | Netflix

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Netflix is famous for keeping its viewership statistics secret. But a recent HighSpeedInternet.com report revealed that the shows Sherlock, Narcos, Friends, House of Cards and New Girl are the service's five most popular worldwide.

Related: How to Create an Amazing Customer Experience

It's not surprising to see each of those shows on the list, as they hold broad appeal and cross-cultural relevance. That's good for Netflix, but raw popularity isn't particularly interesting for entrepreneurs at large. Business leaders who can extrapolate from that data, though, will be able to create more targeted advertisements of their own and be more likely get a leg up on their competition.

Learning from viewership data

To truly get a sense of what motivates consumers, business leaders need to dive into more specific details of that popularity. One way to do that is to understand the demographics of a show's audience. Comparing the behavior of Narcos viewers to that of New Girl fans can reveal to interested observers what motivates various consumer segments.

Entrepreneurs who take the time to learn about the streaming habits of the more than 100 million Netflix users and other streaming platforms -- plus subscribers' listening habits on services like Spotify, and their shopping habits on ecommerce sites -- can develop a more complete idea of what motivates their own target audiences.

They can then translate those insights into better ad development and ad placement decisions.

There's a reason for this: Netflix, for instance, is a primary source of programming that influences viewer preferences and online behaviors; and marketers who follow viewers from Netflix to those viewers' next choice of platform or device are perfectly positioned to own their attention.

A McKinsey & Co. study proved this when it found that a majority of the 27,000 consumers surveyed, who were shopping across 14 industries, considered the overall customer journey to be more important than individual interactions. The study also found hat consumers felt 20 percent more satisfied (than they normally felt during transactions) when that journey remained consistent across multiple channels and events.

Following the consumer's lead

It's easy to make assumptions about audience members when it comes down to specific Netflix shows and those audiences' broader behavior online; but relying on assumptions is the opposite of taking a targeted approach. Engaging with the right consumers at the right time in the right place and with the right message requires a more careful effort.

Consider these tips to use your audience's Netflix viewing habits effectively:

1. Build out richer demographic profiles. Building any audience persona means making inferences into details you don't know, using the data you have. Once you know which shows members of your target audience are watching, you can use that information to build more specific consumer segments.

Knowing that consumers who find one particular show funny are likely to seek out another specific show helps advertisers better target ads and refine messaging. We discovered, for instance, that the viewers of Santa Clarita Diet were 10 times more likely to watch 10 Cloverfield Lane. The style of those shows' content is darkly humorous, and advertisers who match that style in their messaging reach a more receptive audience.

The same data, examined with a careful reading, informs not only demographic profiles and customer journeys but also tastes and preferences.

Those customer profiles should then be kept up to date: Companies that meet their goals are 7.4 times more likely to have recently updated their profiles, according to Cintell research.

Related: Now That You've Created Your Buyer Personas, Here's How to Effectively Employ Them

2. Check out competitors' content. Find out where content streamers go to consume other content, then either advertise there or try to entice that same audience with relevant content that mirrors what they're finding from other sources. Streaming habits don't just indicate retail preferences; they also signal preferences for publishers and other media.

Combine the information you gather through this competitor research with the data you've gathered internally. This alone might give you a leg up on the competition, considering that just 10 percent of marketers surveyed by Ensighten and Econsultancy said their company had been able to gather data successfully, even though that strategy is necessary to build accurate consumer profiles.

Once you've built those profiles, focus on tracking and surveying those same consumers as they navigate omnichannel environments. Every touchpoint -- online, mobile, in-person -- presents an opportunity to gain insights.

3. Personalize your messaging. Being as specific as possible in your messaging is important: As reported by Monetate, 79 percent of companies surveyed that had beaten their goals for annual revenue had personalization strategies. From retail giants such as Walmart to digital goliaths like Netflix and Amazon, companies across industries are focusing on personalization throughout their organizations.

That makes increasingly plausible the projection from research firm Gartner that companies with a true focus on personalization will soon outsell their competition by 20 percent.

Brands seeking to optimize their advertising spend might peruse the overlap between their shoppers and popular YouTube channels or Spotify playlists to determine the best places to run their ads: In other words, they can use that data to identify consumers' needs before those consumers know their needs themselves.

According to our research about the viewers of Santa Clarita Diet, for example, those consumers are likely to be interested in both CeraVe skin care products and listening to The Pretty Reckless on Spotify.

That gem of information lets CeraVe know right where to find its potential customers.

Related: 3 Reasons to Start Copying Your Competitors Today

In sum, a person's Netflix queue can tell a lot about him or her, but that information isn't just useful to Netflix. So, do what other forward-looking companies have done: Put consumers' streaming preferences to work, and analyze the deeper information that a customer's weekend-long binge-watching session can provide.

Deren Baker

CEO, Jumpshot

Deren Baker is the CEO of Jumpshot, a San Francisco-based startup that offers marketing analytics software tailored for the travel, retail, media and e-commerce industries. He has previously held senior roles at Travelocity and Switchfly.

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