3 Ways to Make Netflix Even Better

     January 25, 2010

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For my money (and it does get my money), Netflix is far and away the best way to rent movies.  Its “Watch Instantly” service is fantastic and their overall library contains so many movies that you can rent films that aren’t even available for sale like Ishtar and Mr. Frost.  It’s a service that’s constantly trying to expand its availability as well as its digital distribution.

However, there are some frustrating problems that I think could be easily fixed with some programming tweaks and no need for major overhaul of their impressive navigation or recommendation system.  After the jump, I’ve listed three ways that Netflix could be even better for customers and take another step ahead of its competitors.  Keep reading for my suggestions on how Netflix can improve customer queue organization, provide information on demand for a title, and notifications of title expiration.

netflix_matt_watch_instantly_queue_jan_2010.jpg1. QUEUE CUSTOMIZATION

The Netflix queue system is where the company needs to drastically improve the user experience.  It’s great to have hundreds of movies you know want to watch but it’s easy to get overwhelmed and forget there’s a movie you really wanted to see because it’s buried beneath hundreds of other movies that only rank higher because you chose to add them to your queue first.  I add movies to my queue based on what catches my eye and as a reminder that I want to see the film some day.

The Fix: FOLDERS.  Rather than just being able to rearrange your queue by rank of when you want to be sent the film (since you’re assuming what you’re going to want to watch days or weeks in advance using their rent-by-mail service), Netflix should offer users to create their own folders so they can organize their viewing preferences.  Whether it’s by genre, movies you want to re-watch, or a series of films by a director, actor, etc. that you’re planning to marathon, it would make the queue more accessible than just having to scroll through hundreds of titles and trying to pick just one.

2. CUSTOMER DEMAND

It’s difficult to understand the demand of a particular title.  Even the Netflix “Top 100″ doesn’t make it clear whether it’s measuring films by how often they’re sent our or by how queues they’re in.  And if I click on Crash, the #1 title of the Top 100, I see it has “3,485,240” ratings.  But that doesn’t equal rentals.  I saw the film in the theaters and rated it on Netflix without ever renting or adding it to my queue.  And no matter what the title, I don’t know how many times it’s been rented out, how many customers have it in their queues, and how it would rank among its genre, director, or any other major category.

netflix_distribution_center_01.jpgThe Fix: MORE DATA.  Obviously, Netflix needs to follow what Amazon does when listing a sales ranking.  It’s not enough to have users rank a film on a one-to-five scale and then use that to demonstrate a title’s popularity.  More data means customers can make a better decision on what to rent and they can help bring attention to a film that may be overlooked by the masses.  It’s one thing to just rate a film, but if you see that it’s in a bunch of queues or has been rented loads of times, you may want to trust the wisdom of the mob and give the flick a shot.

3. NOTIFCATIONS

On December 31st, 2009 and January 1st, 2010, I lost a huge chunk of my “Watch Instantly” queue.  I understand the reason for expiration since licenses expire, but I wouldn’t have even known about the expiration had I not checked my “Watch Instantly” queue on December 30th to see if there was a film I felt like watching in that instant.  If I had known that I would be losing certain titles indefinitely in the near future, I would have re-arranged my queue to see these films before they were gone.

The Fix: USE THE ELECTRONIC MAIL. Netflix will notify you via e-mail about your account status and when they’ve sent and received films from your queue.  How difficult would it be to send out an e-mail saying, “The following titles in your ‘Watch Instantly’ queue are set to expire in…”  And then say when it’s one month out, two weeks out, one week out, two days out, one day out, and finally when it’s been moved to your ‘Saved’ queue.”  You don’t know what you got until it’s gone, but it would be helpful to let people know when it’s about to go.

Do you have any other suggestions on how to make Netflix better?  Let us know in the comments section.

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