Vidora Blog

March 30, 2017
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AI Spotlight Series – An interview with Sakiko Ito, Head of Customer Relationship Management at GYAO Corporation

Vidora’s AI Spotlight Series is a series of conversations with leaders, academics and pioneers in the world of artificial intelligence about where AI is today, and how it will change the way we do business.

 

GYAO!, managed by GYAO Corporation and Yahoo! JAPAN, is one of the largest streaming platforms for high-quality licensed videos in Japan, serving over 19million unique users monthly. GYAO!’s unique service offers viewers a choice between advertising-based content (AVOD), subscription-based content (SVOD), and transactional-based content (TVOD). GYAO Corporation’s partnerships with major TV broadcasters enable viewers to watch missed broadcast programs, movies, music content, and much more. Yahoo! Japan acquired GYAO Corporation in 2009 and since then, GYAO! continues to innovate as a premier online entertainment service. Recent initiatives include live-streaming and content production.

Sakiko Ito leads GYAO!’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) efforts and has spearheaded the early adoption of personalized experiences at GYAO!. We had the opportunity to discuss the existing adoption of AI technologies at GYAO Corporation as well as how these technologies will be leveraged in the future.

On designing optimal user interaction experiences

You are leading the CRM team at GYAO! Could you tell us more about the mission of your team? 

SI: The goal of the CRM team is to bring a great user experience to each of our customers across all devices. GYAO Corporation as a whole is a heavily data-driven organization, and in the context of CRM we focus on leveraging the vast amounts of behavioral data to create rich, personalized, online experiences for each customer. The CRM team has been one of the leading drivers of integrating machine learning and AI technologies at GYAO! and works closely with data scientists, architects, developers in Yahoo! JAPAN and GYAO Corporation and external partners like Vidora.

GYAO!’s offering is unique in that the audience can stream rich selection of videos for free (AVOD), upgrade to subscription services to stream premium titles (SVOD), or rent movies (TVOD). Why is GYAO! pioneering this unique business model?

SI: By offering multiple engagement models to our viewers we ensure each user is engaging with GYAO! in exactly the way they prefer. For example, our platform enables a user to enjoy free movies, upgrade to premium service for a time-limited musical show, cancel the membership, and rent a movie at the end of the season. The flexibility in GYAO!’s offering allows us to cater to a variety of consumption preferences and adapt to changing consumption preferences over time.

On moving beyond the online world

GYAO! is working on bringing the virtual experience of musicals to its users. Can you explain what that looks like, and what role you think GYAO! has to play in impacting the user experience outside the online world?

SI: GYAO! is working on bringing the full experience of musicals to our users, and even going beyond the traditional musical-going experience to give users access they wouldn’t otherwise get. GYAO!’s 2.5 Stage (http://gyao.yahoo.co.jp/special/25stage/) gives musical lovers not only the virtual experience of going to a concert, but also creates a community around popular shows. We offer previews and back-stage talk by the casts of popular musicals for free, we live-stream shows so users can experience them in real-time, and we offer the entire show to premium members who may have missed it.

All this is geared towards expanding GYAO!’s service beyond the standard online offering of watching TV shows and movies, and looks to give people a complete entertainment experience. How we understand each customer’s experience as a whole has become more and more important to that – and building comprehensive user profiles that can deeply understand an individual’s taste and future actions is crucial making offerings like 2.5 Stage successful.  

On balancing human intuition with data-driven techniques and AI

Human intuition and AI can sometimes be in conflict. How do you see human intuition and AI evolving at GYAO!?

SI: That’s a great question. Ultimately we believe that successful customer engagement will combine and integrate human domain knowledge directly into AI and machine learning frameworks.

We see the editorial, licensing, product and marketing teams bringing a tremendous amount of domain knowledge around how to engage with users. What machine learning and AI brings to the table is the ability to optimize the broader strategies provided by the various functional groups.

When did you begin working with Vidora and why did you chose to work with Vidora?

SI: We were searching for a high-quality and scalable personalized solution in 2014. We invited several companies to compete with each other based on performance on GYAO!’s UI, and Vidora ranked the best in terms of performance and also provided the best longer term vision for how machine learning and AI technology could benefit GYAO Corporation in the longer term.

What’s next?

SI: The goal of improving user satisfaction with our product never stops. The good news is the technology we have at our disposal enables us to become increasingly sophisticated and intelligent around how we engage with users. We have a variety of initiatives we are working on which leverage data, machine learning, and AI to increase customer satisfaction.

For instance, one area we are currently working on with Vidora is defining a health or loyalty score for individual users and leveraging Strategic AI’s ability to optimize for different strategic goals to optimize those health scores.

Another R&D project that GYAO Corporation and Vidora is expanding the level of automation present in our online and app experiences – all tied to strategic goals which set as a company. For instance, we are conducting a real-time dynamic page layout for each user. The page optimizes based on strategic goals set by GYAO Corporation’s management – for instance goals can be “reduce churn” or “increase video plays”.  You and I will see a completely different page layout based on our behavioral data, and the content offering dynamically changes in real time.  We believe AI has potential in bringing hyper-granular personalization to our audience and to tie those personalized experiences to strategic corporate goals.

We are still in the early innings of deploying AI technologies in our products and the next 12 months are going to be incredibly exciting.

Any message for the team at Vidora?

SI: Vidora has been a great partner for us over the last 2 years. Not only has Vidora integrated and launched innovative solutions, but their team has been a tremendous partner for us. They really care about our challenges as a business and work at lightning speed to bring their innovative solutions to GYAO!. We may speak different languages and work in different time zones, but their passion to innovate together has helped us overcome those obstacles.

*reference: https://marketing.yahoo.co.jp/service/ad_feature.html (Japanese only)

You can find out more about GYAO! here

Read more from our AI Spotlight Series:

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