“The goal is to have the user with us at least for a year. Every aspect of the business, every theme, every function, speaks this language of user retention, of how we can make life a little better for the user.” This expression of unwavering commitment to customer loyalty comes from Vinay Iyengar, Head of Growth and B2C Revenue at ZEE5 Global, the world’s largest digital entertainment platform for South Asian content.
In the latest episode of the Big Leap podcast, our host Peggy Anne Salz interviews Vinay Iyengar on how ZEE5 Global drives engagement at massive scale across multiple markets, through strategic testing, rich content, and achieving the right mix of personalization and frequency.
As Head of Growth and B2C Revenue for ZEE5 Global, Iyengar brings more than a dozen years of experience in understanding user behavior through data analytics, in fields including telecom, content, OTT, and finance.
Launched in 2018, the Mumbai-based ZEE5 Global streams content to nearly 200 countries worldwide. It is the most widely distributed OTT/streaming platform for South Asian content, and offers more than 200,000 hours of TV shows, movies, and other programming in 18 different languages including Hindi, English, Tamil, and Telugu.
The company’s spectacular growth in the streaming video market begins with compelling content. According to Iyengar, a recent milestone for ZEE5 was the 2022 release of RRR, a blockbuster Telugu-language action film. “That movie ended up being a game changer for us,” he says, noting that it pushed all major engagement metrics to 3X growth. Demonstrating the power of universal storytelling, the film’s popularity “cut across a lot of languages. We saw a lot of people who would be comfortable with Hindi as their language watching RRR in Telugu.”
In terms of communications, personalization is a must for any app. But for Iyengar and ZEE5, “the question is how personal” marketing communications should be. “The CTR that I was getting with personalized communication was immensely high until some time back,” he notes. “Now, at least in certain countries, it just feels like users want us to reach out to them with a customized approach, but not calling them out with their names or telling them, ‘You did not perform this activity last week.’”
Similarly, he says, messaging frequency differs by region and operating system. For example, while it’s acceptable to message users more often in certain Asian Pacific markets, it’s best to keep users in Germany “untouched if they are on an iOS device. It’s fine to reach out to users from UAE multiple times especially if they are on Android.” Meanwhile, ZEE5 takes a state-by-state approach in the U.S. For instance, “the behavior that we see of users in California is really different from what we see elsewhere.”
Like most tech companies, ZEE5 relies heavily on A/B testing for creative, delivery timing, and other variables. But it adds a crucial third element to the testing mix, for what it calls A/B/C testing. “Because the entire organization is so immersed within data, the C for us is actually conversations,” explains Iyengar. The team engages in ongoing internal conversations to devise testing scenarios that might not have otherwise been revealed in the data.
As an example, he says, “One thing that came out of [internal] conversation was, why don’t we give out something special to our users on India’s Independence Day?” It hadn’t been previously tried across markets because the team had assumed that users outside of India wouldn’t relate. “We decided it’s okay. The end goal of this campaign is not to drive subscriptions, not to drive revenue engagement, but to give the users a feeling of belonging. It turned out to be a very good campaign.”
ZEE5 Global partners with CleverTap as an all-in-one engagement solution, to help improve operational efficiency, build campaigns, and gain an in-depth understanding of user behavior.
Iyengar says that CleverTap’s automated, drag-and-drop marketing tool makes effective campaign delivery a given, which in turn gives the ZEE5 team more time to focus on strategy. “We spend the maximum time on campaign thought process and then on execution because delivery is taken care of by the tool, which is seamless,” he says. Iyengar also calls upon CleverTap for strategic campaign consultation: “We work very closely with the CleverTap (Customer) Success Team; in many cases, they are also a part of the brainstorming exercise.”
To get more insights from Vinay Iyengar, including his takes on marketing automation, audience segmentation, and the need for actionable real-time metrics, tune into the entire interview.