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Thursday, Sep. 20, 2007

Netflix Bombs at the (Search) Box Office

By Ronald Patiro
September 20th, 2007

Netflix must already love me enough for paying each month and not mailing back my movies, but I’ve decided to help them in a potentially much bigger way. Recently, we noticed there’s some Giant Peach-sized “low-hanging fruit” to harvest on their homepage* — and it could be worth millions.

If only they’d do a bit of testing…

Click me to view Netflix The first problem appears with what seems to be a search bar near their top navigation. This is actually a Coupon Code box.

I’d like to know how many people use this box to search for movies, then violently click the “Back” button once they realize it’s a coupon box. From that number, it’s reasonable to assume that a portion of those searchers are going to a search engine and typing in movie rental coupons — and possibly being wooed to other sites like Blockbuster, where they might stay a customer for years. The lifetime value of this test cannot be taken for granted.

For my first would-be test, the coupon box would be replaced with a movie search box. This is a huge opportunity to let first-time visitor feel the power of searching through some 85,000 DVD’s. This is their unique value proposition; they have just about every DVD imaginable. The coupon box would then be moved below the fold (read: you’d have to scroll down to see it). That way, people who didn’t have a coupon would be less distracted by the possibility of not getting the best deal. Meanwhile, the visitors who do have a coupon would be compelled to find it below the fold.

Click me for Netflix viewNext, I would test the content just below the navigation; what we call the “active window” (example). The active window should invite the visitor to imagine themselves as an empowered member of the Netflix community. By not conveying this feeling, Netflix ignores its main benefit: their mind boggling selection of DVD’s and the spot-on relevance of Netflix-recommended movies.

Their rating system is in a league of its own. By segmenting reviews to show what people similar to you had to say about a movie, they give you trusted recommendations and opinions about each selection.

For a third test, Netflix could benefit by changing two words on this page. The “Start Now” Call to Action would be far more persuasive if it included a benefit. The cold, uninspired command to “Start Now” sounds much better when you say something like “Try it out for free”.

Finally, Netflix should test using language to attract busy people like myself; those who rarely watch-and-return the movies they rent. We save them tons of money on postage. ;)

*Please Note: The screenshots pictured here show the homepage as seen by Netflix members. Non-members see a sign-up form instead.

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Comments (11)

  1. I think I will just continue to let my wife handle Netflix. I just don’t get the whole thing and get lost on the site. I am glad someone spoke up about it.

  2. [...] follow up on my last post about Netflix — and its probable loss of conversion on its homepage — we'd like to congratulate [...]

  3. I am a Netflix user, and unlike Ronald, I mail my movies back as soon as I watch them:) The whole process at Netflix (mailing movies back, receiving movies) works like a charm every time!

    Netflix seems to have everything figured out except for its website.

    I have another suggestion for them- I watch a lot of foreign movies. The good thing is Netflix has a huge collection, but on the flip side, they do not have these movies organized into categories/genres. You are forced to browse a list that has hundreds of movies, unless you know exactly what you are looking for.

  4. Nishi,

    I could not agree with you more on their need for deeper categorization. It is actually a main reason why I decided to write about Netflix. When I began to write, I found this landing page and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give them some more help in addition to my monthly $15 donation ;)

  5. I’ve gotten into habit of logging in every time I go to the Web site since I usually want to check my queue. But I think having a search box there instead of the coupon code could make a big difference. Instead of logging in, I could enter a movie to search to see if it’s available. If not, no harm, no foul… I didn’t have to take an extra step to log in (if that’s all I wanted to do).

    If Netflix DOES carry the movie, then I can “Add the movie” and it could ask me to login or sign up.

    Second that on foreign movies. Sometimes they are searchable by their English names and sometimes by their original name, which even I, a strong speller, can’t always spell.

  6. Meryl,
    I feel your frustration. Inconveniences within their website certainly create friction for their customers. If only there were a way to gain a better understanding of who is coming to their site, what they are expected to do, and what they need to take action on the site as easy as possible… ;)

  7. I have used netflix and never really got on well with it, im in the UK now and have been using http://www.lovefilm.com which is very similar to netflix but in my opinion works better and has more to offer (such as games and downloads). Maybe you should do a revision of their site, or at least a comparison to nexflix.

  8. Dave,

    I checked out http://www.lovefilm.com, and they could definitely give Netflix’s landing page a run for its money. LoveFilm communicates their benefits more persuasively, that’s for sure.

  9. I thoroughly agree with your post. I have been a Netflix customer for years and their web site navigation is questionable at best.

    Unless I know what specific movie to search for, it’s near impossible to find using their system of categorizing.

    How about offering a search for recent movies by year of release? Right now I just use my Entertainment Weekly DVD rental list to find new releases to add to my list.

    And don’t get me started about the On Demand section. I was searching for kids/family movies and they only had 3 pages of movies. But when you look at the entire list by alphabet, there are all kinds of children’s movies. Who has time to look through that huge list? I just need to find a movie for my 4 year old quickly.

    Hopefully they will listen to their customers!

  10. I wonder why large websites like Netflix do not test simple stuff like that.

    Very strange.

  11. I’ve been streaming mostly lately.. Don’t really do much of the mail in movies unless it’s something that they just wont add into the instant section..

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