Like some media platforms nowadays (think YouTube or Pandora for example), Spotify has two principle revenue drivers within their music-as-a-service, business model: an ad-based, free streaming service and a paid premium subscription tier.
... and, in similar fashion to most platform-based tech companies, the goal of the business is to have consumers open up the app and keep them there for as long as possible. The more time we spend in the Spotify app, the more music we consume, the more the artists get paid, and Spotify takes a cut of that profit. It's a beneficial situation for us as consumers (we get to jam out to the music we like), and lucrative for the artists and Spotify.
For the last few weeks, I've been reflecting on the ways in which Spotify utilizes nudge theory on consumers to use the music platform and keep them there. One thing I came to notice between Spotify and other apps I currently have installed on my phone is the lack of Spotify mobile phone push notifications.
Push notifications serve as a great way for brands to stay top of mind and I've been wondering why Spotify doesn't send more notifications. The default notifications setting allows Spotify to send mobile phone notifications so unless you change it, you should be receiving push notifications. But, since having the the app installed on my phone for several years now, I can't recall ever receiving a push notification. Wouldn't it be useful for Spotify, if say, when one of the artists I'm following releases a new album, I'd receive a heads up from the mobile phone app so I can open the app and give the album a listen? I receive "New Release" emails from Spotify, but being how tied we are to our phones nowadays, I would think that push notifications would be a way to reach and nudge consumers into using the app.
Since push notifications aren't a major part of their strategy, how does Spotify draw you and keep you listening in the app? While I've noticed the usage of the default effect and social proof (both behavioral economics nudges) within the app, it's the familiarity heuristic that struck me as most prevalent as I conducted my user testing. More on the familiarity heuristic coming up...
Part of the value proposition of Spotify is their hyper personalization. The usage of big data provides a variety of personalized flavors of recommendations - whether it be their Discover Weekly feature or the Daily Mix playlists - and machine learning algorithms brining it all together.
That being said, we should also note the emotional connection we have with music. As humans, we have the tendency to form associations in our memory with different songs. As a result of these associations, songs becomes stimuli that have the ability set off internal triggers within ourselves, whether it be a sense of joy from the memory of a night out with friends after hearing a song played that night or a sense of depression after listening to a song that reminded you of a deceased relative.
At times we want to relive those moments. We dig up these events from our memory through associated songs, providing a sense of nostalgia and experiencing those emotions again. This is where the familiarity heuristic comes into play.
Understood to be a cognitive "rule of thumb", the familiarity heuristic is our tendency to form decisions favoring what we know (the "familiar") instead of what we don't. We understand what songs impact our moods and in what ways. There are songs that cheers us up, chill us out, and so on. Being that we have a massive selection of music to choose from on music streaming platforms, we can feel overwhelmed with the vast catalogue available. Unless you're specifically searching for new music to listen to, as music consumers we rely on the familiarity heuristic to help us decide what we end up listening to.
When it comes to our consumption, we rely on those associated emotions to help us make that decision. Once we make a song selection, Spotify's recommended-songs feature kicks in and plays a suggested track based on the original one. In using context- and content-based data to make their suggestion, Spotify is pretty accurate in pinning down your mood and, as a result, will keep the songs aligned with your mood.
Spotify clearly has a deep understanding of not only the psychology of their consumers and the link between music and emotion (which could be one of the many reasons why Mood Playlists were made available on the Spotify platform), but also an awareness of our mobile phone usage. With users spending increasingly more time within the Spotify app, Spotify's doing something right in terms of keeping consumers engaged within the app. Instead of potentially irritating people with push notifications from another mobile phone app, Spotify's usage of machine learning is undoubtedly a strategic way to implement nudge theory on a media platform like their own.