28 Oct 2016

Why Misreading Customers Is A Fast-Track To Irrelevance

Foxtel’s new pricing structure, announced this week, has been described as a rival to streaming services Netflix and Stan, and touted by the brand as offering “greater choice and flexibility”. The new structure includes hit shows from HBO, MTV and FOX8 (among others) in a $15 a month package. It’s also another tactic in Foxtel’s much publicised war against piracy, encouraging consumers to access shows like Westworld and Game of Thrones legally – even offering the first episode of the former for free.

This all sounds great in theory, except for the fact that most people don’t exclusively watch gritty HBO dramas. Want to watch actual movies as well as TV series? Foxtel will penalise you another $20 a month. Do you have kids? Add on an extra $10. And if you’re a sports enthusiast, tack on $25. So now you’re paying upwards of $70 a month just to get a range of choices, on a platform that doesn’t yet offer high-definition but still airs ads at an increasing rate. The comparisons to Netflix no longer seem particularly relevant.

The announcement also arrives at the same time as Foxtel has been quietly tying up the local rights to The Walking Dead, meaning that local consumers no longer have the option to use legal services like iTunes to watch the hugely popular show week-by-week. By punishing consumers who are doing the right thing, the company is essentially offering three options: download the shows for free illegally, buy a bundle to access Foxtel’s exclusive rights, or wait until August next year to purchase it on DVD. Not much of a choice – and that war on piracy doesn’t seem quite so principled anymore.

Either the company has completely misread its audience, or it simply doesn’t care. Foxtel’s bundled pricing packages and blind insistence on exclusivity fail to take into account the disruptive trends that have completely changed the way we consume content.

The current media landscape is one in which ad-blocking is rife and brand loyalty is based on who can provide the best experience within a single moment. A simple, affordable subscription model is the norm for accessing entertainment via platforms like Google Play, Spotify or Netflix. Today’s consumers expect to consume media whenever, wherever and however it suits them, whether they’re at home watching TV or finishing an episode on the train. Fans won’t pay more for a lower-quality experience when they can find a loophole. Yet history shows that they will use services that genuinely address their preferences and needs, which is why regular piracy dropped from 23% to 17% in Australia last year, following the arrival of Netflix. With Stan seeing an increase of 50,000 subscribers in the last month and Netflix reporting 65% international growth last quarter, it seems clear that the longer Foxtel fails to adapt, the closer it inches to becoming completely irrelevant.

Apple’s New MacBook Pro Shows How Mobile-Centric We’ve Become

As rumoured, Apple’s new Macbook Pro, announced yesterday, includes a context-sensitive OLED strip that responds to gestures and shows different options based on what program you’re using. If you’re browsing the web, it might include your bookmarks to tap into or show typing suggestions as you’re writing a message, just like on your smartphone.

While touch-screen computers are old news, the incorporation of touch into the keyboard, an area in which Apple is lagging, highlights how mobile-driven we’ve become. For most people, typing on a keyboard is something we do without thinking – just like swiping mobile screens at lightning speed is ingrained behaviour for millennials. Although both feel natural, they’re very separate sets of behaviours. Adding a smartphone-esque touchpad to the MacBook Pro feels like a step towards a future where mobile behaviour translates to all our other interactions with technology. But is this something that consumers are really looking for?

We don’t use PCs the same way we use mobile, so greater touch capability doesn’t seem entirely necessary. On mobile we want to quickly tap and swipe so we can perform an action straight away, in what Google has termed “I want-to-know, I want-to-go, I want-to-do, and I want-to-buy moments. Searches on mobile are prone to be location-specific, as we look for information based on our immediate context. On PC’s we’re more likely to research, explore and take our time.  When we’ve made the call to take action, such as making a purchase, mobile is the weapon of choice.

But with the PC market declining, perhaps the new MacBook spells another marked shift in the way we use technology, in a time when laptops and desktops have simply become part of the furniture for most consumers. The context-specific touchscreen reflects demand for more personalised and relevant experiences with technology and could point to users acting more quickly and decisively on PCs. Options that change based on your activity would also provide a more straight-forward, intuitive and contextual experience, doing away with keyboard shortcuts and function keys that are no longer relevant for the everyday user.

With desktop traffic fading and tech giants like Google and Facebook putting their money behind a mobile-centric future, it seems only fitting that our computers become more and more like extended versions of the devices we carry around in our pockets. Whether the new design also helps to lift Apple’s decreasing revenue or reinvigorate the PC market remains to be seen.

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