Try to think of the last movie that you bought in store and brought home to watch? I completely understand if it takes you a moment to remember. I really had to think about it too.
I was doing some decluttering the other day and realized that a lot of movies I owned on Blu Ray or DVD were also owned on digital platforms like Amazon or YouTube. Furthermore, most of my recent movie purchases have been on digital platforms.
Seriously, I own 8 Star Wars DVD’s, but the last one in the series was bought on YouTube. I still own all the movies technically. To a purist you might say “But what about your collection?” The truth though is that I did it for one selfish, lazy, and completely justifiable reason:
I no longer have to find storage space for DVD’s and Blu-Rays or put them in the (at one time) expensive media players. Now I just go to one of my favorite apps like YouTube (which I was most likely browsing anyway) and put on a movie when I feel like watching one.
Even though I do find myself repurchasing movies that I already owned (back with their twenty dollar price tags) I am still willing to pay this price again if it means I can do so from the convenience of one of my favorite apps, and in higher video quality I might add.
Don’t take my word for it. According to Mahoney and Tang (2017), consumers are willing to exercise the same purchasing practice with many of their decisions, “Consumers are willing to pay premium prices for niche products and are more likely to make niche recommendations to others” (Pg. 159). Not only are people willing to pay extra for a service or product that might be only slightly better than the original alternative, but they are also willing to spread the word and tell others of the niche product or service too.
Again, the answer is convenience. Especially now in an age where more people are staying home for safety reasons, convenience is the name of the game. Let’s think of all the restaurants which sadly closed recently due to the pandemic. Now let’s think of the ones that were able to stay open and thrive because of convenient services like DoorDash and Grubhub. It seems wrong–and in a lot of ways it is–but that doesn’t change the fact that some companies were better able to adapt to recent social trends, even the unfair ones. Furthermore, people are now even paying top prices to have their carefully selected groceries delivered straight to them. Services like Blue Apron, for example, allow for the quality food cooking experience to be delivered in a neat, organized box.
I mention all of this because in my social media class this week we examined the Weixin (pronounced “way-shin”) case study. If you don’t know, Weixin is an app in China that is similar to WhatsApp here in America. The intended use of the app is that you can send messages, videos, and even money to those within your social network. As of 2014, Weixin has already gained more than 300 million active users across the globe.
But what makes this app so great you might ask? If people wanted to send a message couldn’t they just text?
Well again, the keyword is convenience. Weixin has in-app browsers that are said to be easier to read than typical phone browsers. According to Mahoney and Tang (2017), in addition, “Audiences rarely need to leave Weixin to open a mobile browser no matter if they want to read news or make a purchase, which is not only convenient to audiences but also helps Weixin keep the audience flow” (Pg. 93). Much like with my YouTube movie purchases, Weixin allows users to stay within this one app and perform all of their online purposes.
Furthermore, Weixin knows their audience base and tailors themselves to them. Since the majority of their customers are from China, and since they have been able to study the browsing and purchasing history of their customers, they were able to introduce new features to accommodate their users.
For example, the Chinese New Year is often celebrated with the exchanging of money between family members and friends through the use of red envelopes. Weixin turned this practice into a feature to use on their app. Now users could digitally send red envelopes to their loved ones. They even have a fun feature where you can set a certain amount that you want to send and have it divided randomly by the app. Grandma might receive thirty dollars, while cousin Jack may only get four dollars.
In short, Weixin’s success is in how they became a daily part of their customer’s lives. I do think apps like these would be successful all over the world because of the convenience that they provide, and with new translation technologies constantly improving it could definitely be a part of English or other language communities and the like very soon, if not already.
This practice has been seen in some of our social media apps as well. Facebook and Twitter for example provide a space for users to purchase and browse their news from the convenience of their apps. Much like with Weixin, the apps customize ads and stories that the companies believe the user will be most interested in.
You could argue that this is invasive of your privacy–and it really is–but you could also look at it as a convenient way to manage your time and preferences in this fast-paced world of ours.
Regardless, my biggest takeaway from the case study is that apps like Weixin are successful because they become engraved into people’s lives. For those wishing to market their brands, businesses have to find a way to not only offer users a product or service which can be provided conveniently, but they also need to find a way to become integrated into the user’s daily life.
To do this, companies–and this goes for small ones as well as big ones–have to be able to individualize themselves to their customer and offer them more than just a product, but also a convenient experience that will keep them coming back.
This is why, for example, some apps have streaks that encourage you to check in daily and build your streak count. You can then share this number and experience with those in your social network. My Bible app for example would have a new verse to read everyday and would also give you a streak number if you were able to login at least once a day. I had a streak of 335 before missing the cutoff one night by five minutes. No!!!
I share this final thought. Companies and businesses that do not strive for these individualized approaches with their customers do run the risk of losing them entirely, as we have seen with so many businesses throughout time. Including those which–especially for this individual film buff’s purposes–find better ways to sell movies.
I really do miss companies like Blockbuster. That was always a fun experience as a kid. But today I like getting my movies with the click of a button. Convenience, like in the case of Weixin and others, will always seem to win out.
Mahoney, M. L. and Tang Tang (2017). Strategic social media: From marketing to social change [eBook edition]. John Wiley & Sons. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=nzMWDQAAQBAJ&hl=en&pg=GBS.PP1