With the UK eCommerce sales reaching £38bn last year, there's stiff competition to find new ways to attract customers to a website or app, keep them engaged while there and ultimately to encourage their return. To achieve this goal, increasing numbers of companies are turning to gamification as a way of creating a more entertaining and fun shopping experience than that offered by traditional e-commerce sites such as Amazon or eBay, according to Juha Koski, managing director for Madbid.com.
The end goal is to better engage with and reward customers - and drive sales. By contrast, standard loyalty programmes tend to focus on the very last stage of the consumer decision journey (i.e. the purchase) but crucially leave out and ignore everything that occurs beforehand.
A range of varied forms of gamification exist including hidden bonuses, batches rewards, leader boards, earning new status, the unlocking of different levels or playing for earned discounts on shopping sites. The potential to better engage with and reward users has resulted in gamification elements infiltrating different business sectors, from professional to consumer.
Here are some great examples:
The professional network uses a number of different gamification design elements including a profile completeness bar (showing the percentage of the profile completed and gently encouraging members to reach 100%), and a profile strength display (showing how members could reach All Star status, who's viewed their profile dashboard and generally encouraging users to reach out and connect with other members).
The UK's community driven mobile phone network uses gamification and rewards to encourage the community to help one another. Support is given in forums and contributing to the forums earns points that can be converted to money and redeemed against airtime. As a marketing professional, I can't help but acknowledge the ingenuity behind an approach that lets your customers handle the customer service!
The online snack retailer has created a game to unlock friend codes, which, once used, unlock rewards, and discounts for the users.
The potential of gamification is now widely acknowledged by education experts, with game-based learning now a fast growing and exciting market.
Building a business case to justify rewarding engagement obviously isn't as straightforward as one for rewarding actual purchases. But while it definitely doesn't provide all the certainties to justify an investment similar to a loyalty programme, if executed correctly it can be just, if not more, powerful.
Creating your Gamified Strategy
So how do you create a gamified strategy for a website? The first and most important question to ask is how does this benefit the user and is it fun? Just creating side games may initially improve usage numbers, but the novelty effect will quickly wear off unless users benefit from them or can play to increase their status or rewards.
It's human nature to strive to win and when gamification is optimally designed, it taps into this basic desire to achieve, win and be recognised and rewarded. We have a natural drive for socialising and learning, and by making visible leader boards you can encourage participation and competition. Some techniques that could be incorporated into the design of a site include:
- Status enhancement
The key is to create an element that increases the user's status and displays it to other users of the site. Terms such as 'power user' and 'super user' encourage user activity. Psychologically speaking, this captures the power of 'social proof'.
- Setting and rewarding targets
This is a great way of incentivising the activity you wish to encourage on the site, whether it be purchasing or commentary. You need to create simple clear goals - such as 'rescue the princess' - and reward key goals along the way (eg. allowing a user to progress to the next level).
By allowing a totally transparent scoreboard, participants can see how everyone else is performing. This could be easily be applied in a business or educational context such as staff / student performance or even in a purchasing environment, such as power buyer.
Simple mechanics such as badges, gifts and discounts encourage interaction and are universally understood symbols that show off skills and accomplishments.
Humans have an innate need to be part of something. By creating a way to get your audience to feel part of and work together as a team, you can drive an increase in performance.
"By introducing gamification, you'll be able to engage with your users for longer and build and maintain the relationship with them," concluded Koski. "If your users are having fun, they're more likely to share this with their friends. And of course you can always add a gamification sharing element to encourage this."