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The 3 Marketing Strategies Every E-commerce Brand Needs to Steal from Netflix

Netflix dominates attention on the internet. With over 130 million subscribers, the video streaming service is responsible for 15% of total, global internet traffic, well ahead of second place Youtube (11.4%).

Just how did Netflix, a company known for snail-mailing DVDs just a decade ago, reach the pinnacle of online attention?

Peeling back the curtain on Netflix’s strategy, we find a really smart use of licensed content that allowed a startup entertainment company to steal screen time from the largest media properties in the world.

Marketers, even at small and growing brands, can use licensed articles just as Netflix did with video, and implement these three key strategies to drive growth and become heavyweights in their own space. It’s the perfect way to grow your e-commerce marketing strategy.

1. Radically grow your audience on a limited budget

Jakob Owens

In 2007, the year they launched their streaming video service, Netflix had a market cap of about $1.6B. They didn’t have the budget to produce a library of high-quality, original movies and series, each with six and seven-figure price tags.

Netflix had to find another way to gain an audience.

So they began by licensing existing titles from several studios. Licensing content was much less expensive and time-consuming than original production, allowing Netflix to provide subscribers with very high-quality choices quickly.

By 2012, Netflix had amassed 27 million subscribers who watched a billion hours of video in just he month of June that year, winning attention away from media giants like HBO.

And they still hadn’t produced a single piece of original content.

Marketing Insight:

If you’re a marketer for a small e-commerce brand, licensed articles offer the same lever for you to win traffic from much larger brands.

Distribute a steady flow of high-quality, licensed articles on topics your audiences care about, and they’ll engage with it. That’ll get them into your funnel, giving you an opportunity to retarget and email them. It opens up your funnel to high-quality traffic more efficiently.

Netflix didn’t just build an audience, though. They were learning from every click, search, and view. When it was time to create original content, this data would guide them in choosing what to create, how to promote it, and how to personalize each subscriber’s experience.

2. Deliver a personalized experience

Thought Catalog

“There are 33 million versions of Netflix”

Joel Evans, Netflix’s Director of Corporate Communications, 2013

What Evans meant was that every subscriber has a different Netflix experience, and it’s guided by the data gathered from all those interactions.

When you open Netflix, your home screen will be filled with recommended titles. When you finish a movie, there’s a suggestion for what to watch next. Even promos are tailored to your specific viewing habits.

Let’s say, for example, you tend to like science fiction shows and you watch movies with strong female lead characters. Netflix is about to drop a new sci-fi film, so you get the ad. But your trailer focuses on the lead female character while someone else might see a promo filled with epic battle scenes.

All of this personalization is done in-app at Netflix, not a luxury most e-commerce marketers have. But there is an important lesson here.

Consumers have come to expect a personalized approach from the brands they love. Yet, it’s nearly impossible for a small brand to generate enough content to achieve this type of personalization. Especially when you sell into multiple markets.

Market insight:

A brand that sells coolers, for example, might sell to campers, beach-goers, fishermen, hunters, and football tailgaters.

When that brand has access to a library of ready-to-publish licensed content on a variety of topics, they can personalize prospecting by serving different consumer segments articles that speak to that segment’s interests.

For example, the brand can meet new campers by distributing an article about great hikes on Facebook while sending an email with an article on great grilling techniques to tailgaters who’ve recently purchased a cooler.

Personalizing marketing with licensed content is a huge boon for a small brand because it allows you to engage multiple audiences effectively on a lean budget. But learning how to reduce the risk of a marketing misfire might be even more valuable.

3. Taking the gamble out of marketing investments

Jack Hamilton

Netflix entered the fray of original content production with a bang. In 2011, they committed $100 million for the first two seasons of a new political drama called House of Cards, outbidding formidable competitors like HBO and AMC. All without ever seeing a pilot episode.

But it was hardly a gamble. Netflix had an ace up their sleeve.

Specifically, they had five years of audience data to inform their decision.

For example, Netflix knew that viewers of the original House of Cards, a british political thriller also available on their streaming service, watched movies starring Kevin Spacey and rated Director David Fincher’s work positively.

Among many other data points, this triangulation let Netflix know a new Fincher-directed House of Cards featuring Kevin Spacey was likely to resonate with a sizable audience.

While Netflix doesn’t release viewership numbers, it’s safe to say the investment paid off. ‘Cards has been nominated for 212 awards—winning 27 of them. And in its sixth season, the series has helped Netflix top 130 million subscribers worldwide.

This level of insight about an audience was possible through millions of data points gathered as Netflix subscribers interacted with licensed content. It would have been impossible to gather data at this scale with original content alone.

The Netflix example gives e-commerce brands a really useful strategy to know how to invest limited marketing budgets more wisely using data from licensed content.

Marketing Insight:

Say you’re the marketer for our cooler company and you’ve been asked to enter a new geography. You have a library of licensed content to pull from so you put a small amount of paid Facebook dollars behind several articles that cover fishing, hunting, camping, and tailgating.

You find that your fishing and tailgating articles are clear winners in traffic and engagement in this new region.

This data can guide everything from landing pages, direct response, and product positioning for that new market.  

Just like at Netflix, it can guide decisions on where to invest in high-value, original content as well. When you hire a video production team, you know a fishing-themed video is likely to resonate in your new market. If you’ve watched the data, you may even know that your audience is more likely to be interested in fly fishing vs. rod and reel.

The 3 Marketing Strategies to Achieve Netflix-like Domination with Licensed Content

The efficiency and flexibility of licensed content gave Netflix the lever it needed to punch well above its weight, and it can do the same for your brand. Combine it with a data-driven original content strategy, intelligent distribution, and deep data insights, and you’ll dominate your space as well.

With the power of licensed content, an e-commerce marketer can:

  1. Build a larger, high-quality audience
  2. Deliver a more personalized experience
  3. Make smarter marketing investments

And, all on a limited budget!

Matcha has helped hundreds of lean marketing teams to implement and execute similar strategies to achieve sustainable growth. Matcha provides everything you need to engage your audiences with great storytelling throughout their buying journey. With Matcha you have access to a marketplace of nearly 10,000 licensed articles, a content services team to create original content (copy, photography, video), experienced paid social planners, and deep data insights through both your dashboard and regular strategy meetings.

The best part is that it’s all within your budget. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

You can set up an appointment to see if Matcha is a good fit for your business.

And check out our other articles on licensed content