Netflix knows how to reel customers in but its focus on build better experiences is what drives growth. Source: Shutterstock

Netflix knows how to reel customers in but its focus on build better experiences is what drives growth. Source: Shutterstock

A focus on customers in emerging markets drives Netflix’s tech innovations

NETFLIX just introduced a new MYR 17 (US$4.06) mobile-only subscription plan in Malaysia.

The country is one of the many emerging markets in Asia that the company is looking to capture and dominate — but pricing isn’t what Netflix relies on — to set itself apart from the competition.

The US entertainment giant that put Blockbuster out of business in 2011 (and forced its sale to Dish) is fundamentally a technology company; aptly, it is using tech innovations to drive success and growth in emerging markets.

Tech Wire Asia caught up with Netflix Director of Product Innovation (Growth) Ajay Arora to see emerging markets such as Malaysia and India from the company’s perspective.

“Smartphone penetration is at 88 percent in Malaysia and 78 percent of internet users spent time streaming and downloading entertainment last year. According to Netflix’s own stats, Malaysia watches twice as much content on phones as the average member. Therefore, Netflix is keen on improving the mobile experience.”

Arora said that the company has been making small improvements to the mobile app over the past year or so, but some of the latest updates take the mobile experience to a whole new level.

“We’ve redesigned the app for a quicker sign-up process, using autocomplete, autofill, and everything else we can to simplify the experience — based on our learning that smartphone signups are growing quickly in emerging markets.

“We’ve also reconfigured the app using Android native technologies and used smarter code to detect the technical specifications of the device and optimize content for it.

“We understand that a lot of the smartphone users in emerging markets might not be using the flagship models so smartening up the app makes for more efficient delivery and results in a much better experience, irrespective of the kind of device used.”

The important thing to note is that every tech innovation that the company works on is based on an insight or pain point that users/customers face. That’s what magnifies the impact of every successful project and helps visibly (literally) boost experiences.”

However, Arora doesn’t take all the credit.

“Much of our understanding of the emerging markets, in Malaysia and elsewhere, is a result of our collaboration with local telecom and cable companies.

“You can’t sit in an office in California and make decisions about what will work in a market thousands of miles away. I’ve made several trips to our emerging markets to meet with our partners and spend time on the ground to really get to grips with what the users here need.”

In Malaysia, Netflix has partnered with telecom giants Maxis, Celcom, and Digi — and one of the most exciting things to come out of partnerships is that customers can subscribe to the service on their mobile devices even if they don’t own a credit card (unlike most customers in the US) with relative simplicity.

“All they have to do is agree to have the subscription fee added to their phone bill every month. This is a significant breakthrough and really boosts experience. We wouldn’t be able to think or deliver this feature without our partners’ help.”

Although Netflix got a headstart in the digital entertainment space, it faces plenty of competition in the US as well as in emerging markets. However, it’s unlikely that the company will lose its grip on the market; its focus on customers and delivering useful, incremental tech-innovations is remarkable.