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How Redbox Instant is gamifying its beta test

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Redbox Instant by Verizon is doing something interesting to get more feedback on its invite-only beta test: The Netflix (s NFLX) competitor recently launched a separate website dubbed Redhead Nation that invites Redbox Instant users to take part in games and in return win prizes ranging from a Redbox rental to an Xbox. (S MSFT) Some questions are about direct product feedback while others hint at more ambitious crowdsourcing plans.

Redbox Instant Chief marketing Officer Amy Gibby told me during a phone call Wednesday that the goal of the new site was to learn from beta testers. “We can really learn a lot from them,” she said, adding that there are already 2,000 people signed up for Redhead Nation.

One part of Redhead Nation is a daily question about some of the service’s features. Rate how the Redbox Instant dashboard works for you, and you’ll receive 100 points. Add a request for additional features, and Redbox Instant rewards you with another 50 points. Get 500 points, and you’ll be entered into a sweepstakes to win an Xbox and other prizes. And of course, there’s also a leaderboard, showing that some subscribers have already earned more than 4000 points.

Giving users rewards to answer questions about the service is smart, because it increases the likelihood that the company will actually get a good amount of feedback. But Redhead Nation seems to lay the foundation to go much further:

This is smart: Redbox Instant asks its users to tag its movies.
This is smart: Redbox Instant asks its users to tag its movies.

The site also solicits users to take part in small games and quizzes. Some of these just try to amuse the movie buff crowd, but others could actually prove to be very helpful for the site going forward. In particular, Redhead Nation asks users to add tags to movie titles offered through the service. This could be used to beef up Redbox’s metadata library, telling the service what kind of keywords its subscribers associate with some of its titles, and in turn helping to strengthen its discovery skills. Using tags in this way is “definitely a consideration,” said Gibby, adding that a part of the Redhead Nation project was to test these kinds of theories.

Established competitor Netflix has put a lot of effort into algorithmic recommendations, suggesting new titles based on subscribers rating titles they’ve seen, as well as on a whole bunch of additional data it collects when users interact with the service. A bigger focus on tagging and more active, natural-language responses from its users seems like an interesting way for Redbox Instant to counter that algorithmic approach.

The current Redhead Nation sweepstakes concludes at the end of January. Gibby said that the company hasn’t decided yet whether it will run further sweepstakes. However, it could make a lot of sense for the company to keep this going in some form or another and keep users playing to improve the company’s service.

Redbox Instant launched its private beta test at the end of December. The company is offering subscribers a Netflix-like subscription that comes with four monthly coupons for Redbox DVD rentals.

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