Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Why I still get my Netflix movies in the mail

I'm a movie junkie - I love movies.  Old movies like Casablanca, or even new movies like John Wick 3.  Can't wait to see what John Wick can survive in the third installment.  I wore out a Blockbuster card back in the day when Blockbuster was a thing.  When I discovered Netflix, and its extensive catalog of movies, I was hooked.  Best thing about Netflix is they delivered to my mailbox.

Now, of course, Netflix and everyone else can stream movies to my TV, my laptop and my smartphone.  I even have a package (or at least AT&T says I do - they've never been able to get it to work) for HBO on my phone.  You might think with this plethora of offerings and choice I'd be a streaming guy on Netflix.  But you'd be wrong.

Why I love getting movies in the mail

I'm old school and admittedly so where movies are concerned.  My son, who is in his third year in engineering school, laughs every time I talk about my Netflix account.  Mostly I think because he can't piggy back and get downloads for free.  He could not believe we still get movies in the mail.  I thought about this fact for a while and like many things in life decided there was an innovation lesson in my approach.

It has to do with choice.  Netflix through the mail allows me to select and rank movies I'd like to watch, and I receive them one at a time. So I have unlimited choice in scheduling but exceptionally limited choice in the moment.  When it comes time to watch a movie in the evenings, we have exactly one choice.  Rather than turn to an almost unlimited selection of movies and content on the web or through a cable provider, I can say "well, I selected this one movie for a reason, so let's watch it".

For example, I've got A Clockwork Orange waiting for me at home.  If I were scanning through a long list of movies from my cable provider or from Netflix streaming, looking for movies to watch in the moment, I might think - I can always get A Clockwork Orange.  Too much opportunity and too much choice leads to difficult decision making and FOMO.  If I'm going to invest 2 hours in a movie I select on the fly it had better be good.  But when I have one choice in front of me, and one I've made from a long list of movies previously, then I'm usually happy with the selection.

Lessons for Innovators

There may be lessons here for innovators.  There is a psychological challenge known as choice overload or the paradox of choice.  This happens when people struggle to make decisions when offered too many choices.  I believe that many of our innovations fall prey choice overload, whether we are speaking of too many content choices online or too many features on a product.

Customers want to get a job done - in my case, enjoy an interesting and entertaining movie - without a lot of hassle or decision making.  When we introduce too many options and too much choice, we can provide what appears to be a greater benefit but may introduce confusion or anxiety - what if a better movie is available now?  Simply by creating a lot of content or features we create decision anxiety and increase FOMO, when a new product or service should reduce it.

There's another reason I love to get NetFlix in the mail.  My little red envelope is almost the only thing I get that isn't a bill or a flyer.  There's something almost gift-like about receiving the movie in the mail, and I think that's another lesson.  Increasingly we've lost the sense of wonder or experience with many of our products.  Apple used to strive for this, attempting to create a meaningful experience for customers when using its products, but I think they've jumped the shark lately.  What experience, emotion or unexpected gift does your product or service provide?

Do a job, simplify, create wonder

So, in closing, I'd say that innovators who create new products and services should always be asking the following questions, of themselves, their solutions and most importantly, their prospective customers:

  1. Does what I'm creating help you accomplish your job to be done?
  2. Does it do so in a way that reduces anxiety, stress or uncertainty?
  3. Does it create a new customer experience that evokes wonder or heightened experience?
  4. Will the product simplify my life and choices?
Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but these are some of the reasons I still get my Netflix movies in the mail.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 7:32 AM


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