We live in a connected world with digitally evolved consumers seeking superior experiences across channels. Connected consumerism is on a rise!

These consumers now expect experiential interactions to be extended to their Smart TVs as well. Research from Gartner indicates that by 2018, 76 percent of connected home apps will be accessible from Smart TVs. Also, by 2018, 87 percent of TVs shipped annually will be Smart TVs. These figures are indicating a strong change in content consumption patterns. Brands now need to start thinking TV as a mainstream media for communication.

Consumers want to consume content on demand with no interruptions in the form of breaks. Smartphones and Smart TVs are the most used devices and consumers want a complete sync between the two. Connected TVs enable consumers to watch content from YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and many other apps right from their living rooms. Eventually, TVs are becoming a natural extension to smartphones and tablets.

Smart and Connected TVs provide brand marketers, agencies, and content providers an opportunity to include TV as a part of their digital strategy and develop apps across a broad spectrum of connected TVs. However, the ecosystem of Connected TVs is complex and quite challenging. Outlined below are some key points for building superior Smart TV experiences:

1. Define your target Smart TV platforms: Identify between streaming players, TVs with inbuilt OSs and gaming consoles. Users might leverage on either of these mediums to get a connected experience. You should identify the platforms basis your geography, industry, and user profile. Here is more information on all three connected devices:

  • Smart TVs constituted about 75% of the total market in the year 2015/2016. Smart TVs such as Samsung Tizen, LG, Smart Alliance and Android Smart TV (with inbuilt Android OS and features) are projected to remain dominant. Overall, TVs might have a market share of 55% by 2021.
  • Media Streamers such as Apple TV, Roku TV, Android TV (like Nvidia set top box), Amazon Fire and Chromecast constitute about 12.5% of the market share.
  • Gaming Consoles such as Xbox and PS constitute about 12.5% of the market share and will reduce to about 7.5 % by 2021.

2. Leverage the existing systems: Building for Smart TV isn’t out of the box. Do not forget that your end goal is to create a connected experience. If you already have engaging applications for mobile and the web, leverage the existing technology, marketing and support system.

Leveraging on existing back-end systems will enable users to explore the new connected TV apps with all their existing account data and preferences. Integrate the analytics dashboards so as to be able to take key business decisions in a holistic manner.

3. Define the monetization strategy: T-commerce (TV commerce) is now one of the most sought after mediums of monetization. Subscriptions and Ads are largely the two main sources of monetization. Ads are further classified into three types - SVOD (Subscription based VOD), TVOD (Transactional VOD) or AVOD (Ad based VOD). You need to define your monetization strategy basis your audience, platform capabilities and limitations. While most players prefer to play by the subscription cards, there are limitations in integrating ad networks on certain platforms. Some other players also prefer in-app purchase on platforms such as Roku and Apple. Monetization is evolving with time and some new age retail players such as QVC, HSN, H&M, LC, and TJC are also incorporating e-commerce capabilities in their Smart TV Apps enabling users to purchase from the comfort of their living rooms.

4. Define the feature set: Identify the existing mobile or web features you want to replicate for your TV audience. Select the features that are extremely useful. For e.g. User registration flow could be changed for TV users as it becomes very cumbersome to fill information using a remote control.  It is always advisable to provide TV users with easy to use, intuitive feature sets.

5. Build user engagement by leveraging native user experience: The fragmented Smart TV ecosystem lacks standardization and therefore, TVs, streaming devices, and consoles all have different native functions and features. A Roku TV remote works differently than a Tizen TV remote. Design your user interface for each individual platforms keeping in mind their own native controls. You can also utilize other Motion and Audio controls to help engage users with Smart TVs through basic human interactions. Remember, delivering a unique experience with audio controls or other features increases the word of mouth.

6. Cross Platform Development and Testing: You need in-depth expertise to develop and test cross platform Connected TV products. While platforms such as Tizen, LG, and Panasonic leverage JavaScript, Roku requires an understanding of BrightScript and Apple TV products can be developed utilizing Swift 2.0 and Java. Think through all TV specific scenarios to ensure there is 100% test coverage. Identify TVs with different resolutions (HD, Full HD, and UHD) and make sure you define a personalized test strategy in every testing cycle for these resolutions. Apart from ensuring accurate testing of applications/products, it is essential to review the development and app submission guidelines of each platform.

The Connected TV landscape is quite fragmented and you will need to make efforts to customize the experience basis your target audience. You will need to take care of multiple platforms, resolutions, geographies and have precise monetization strategies for each of the platforms. However, developing products and experiences for Smart TVs will not start from scratch as you will be able to leverage your existing systems and processes. A good Connected TV experience not only helps you gain competitive advantage but also creates long-term recall and engagement thereby strengthening your brand position.

- by Gaurav Gupta, Vice President, Mobility Services, TO THE NEW

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