Netflix Gets Email – Part III

Adam Covati

For the final blog post in my series on Netflix’s email marketing program (see part 1 & part 2) we are going to gain a little insight into the testing Netflix has done to get them where they are as well as take a look at where they can go from here.

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Testing is key to any good email marketing program. As much as you may think you have your finger on the pulse of your list, you can’t know it all. Testing allows you to optimize your message for your goals.

The folks at Netflix have taken this to heart and do quite a bit of testing. From the talk I sat in on at the Email Evolution conference I learned that they have found one consistent results: simpler is better. This is true in terms of both copy and creative, the simpler the email, the better it performed.

This is evident in all of their messaging, you’ll never find long-winded copy or elaborate pictures. They limit themselves to a few short sentences, movie covers, and a couple of simple Netflix based ads. Even the layout of the page quite simple.

Netflix mailing survey

As you can see in the Return Survey emails, they get right to the point and provide clear options for the survey. It’s a simple email with no distractions, it serves its purpose very effectively.

Testing isn’t limited to the content of emails, Kelly Murtha, the Director of Relationship Management at Netflix, explained that they have made use of analytics and focus groups to determine the topics that need to be addressed as well as for finding the proper cadence for these messages.

If you don’t have the time or resources to hold focus groups then you should consider just polling your email recipients. A quick question asking “Do we send emails too often?” with yes and no answer links can easily be tracked and provide quick feedback. For more info on how to do this, see our Quick and Easy Surveys blog post.

You can also take a look at links which get more clicks in your messages with an eye towards trends over time. Maybe emails that cover sports or local events got more clicks, that’s a good indicator that these topics resonate with your list.

Always Improving

We’ve covered quite a bit of space talking about all the great things Netflix is already doing. They have a fantastic program, no doubt. But let’s take a few minutes and talk about where they can make things even better.

An important aspect of any email program is the general frequency and volume of messages. You don’t want to get contact fatigue by emailing too much. You also want to ensure that they are interested in the messages you receive. Netflix does provide a few options for emails to receive, but the vast majority of what they send cannot be opted out of.

This means that all Netflix customers have no choice but to get the sent & received messages, as well as the surveys. Many people appreciate these messages, even if they do become a bit excessive, but I have heard of some people actually creating new email addresses so they don’t have to see all those messages. I’ve heard that they are working on providing options to control this – which will definitely be a helpful change.

Aside from controlling the types of messages, cutting down on the number of messages could help as well. Netflix often sends out multiple messages a day to one person. For example if they receive 2 dvds from you and ship out 1 new dvd, you would receive 3 messages from them. If these could be condensed into 1 message then you would get less clutter and more value.

The last point is that I think Netflix could use a little more pizazz in their messages. I know that one of their key points is simplicity, but the messages are bordering on spartan. Even adding a bit more a frame and maybe a background color could create more a of a recognizable brand to the messages. Without something that makes them pop, it’s hard to create a lasting impression.

In this case I have to defer to testing, I haven’t been with Netflix long, and I don’t have too much insight into what they’ve done in the past. They very well may have tested more polished looking emails and found they performed poorly. But my personal preference is for a slightly more aesthetically pleasing message.

Well, I hope that you enjoyed this tour through Netflix’s email marketing program. I think it’s a great example of a company who is getting a lot of things right. Which is something to applaud in a space where a lot of people are still working on the basics.

Adam Covati
Product Manager at Bronto