Think of all those times you stayed up through the night just so you could level up on your favourite game. There was a certain rush and excitement that came with accruing points and going up to higher levels. This high level of user engagement and loyalty associated with games is possible with your business marketing strategy through Gamification.
Gamification creates an environment similar to a game where customers are rewarded with points, badges and through leaderboards, or as gamification guru Yu-kai Chou says “Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and addicting elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities.”
By making the customers’ engagement with the brand as additive as a video game, businesses can get users to make the brand a part of their daily life. Customer loyalty and retention increases as users spend more time with the brand. Rather than spending more money on customer acquisition, marketers can get their existing customers to pay more with a retention strategy driven by gamification mechanics. According to a survey by Invesp, acquiring new customers is 5 times more costly than customer retention. But, almost 44% of businesses still focus on acquisition with a meagre 18% focusing on retention.
Research and advisory firm, Gartner suggest a few ways that marketers can drive engagement through gamification:
Accelerated feedback cycles
Marketers use feedback loops that monitor player activity and level of engagement in real-time to refine the marketing strategy. Gamification speeds up feedback loops allowing for faster modifications to the user experience.
Clear goals and rules of play
Gamification motivates players by providing them with an end goal they can achieve, like obtaining the first position on the leaderboard or earning the most badges. It also lays out clear rules for the players so that they remain on track through the process.
A compelling narrative
Marketing departments can build an engaging storyline around their gamification strategy so players feel that there is a sense of progression to their activities. A storyline makes the process addictive and compels players to stick to the narrative till they see through the entire plot.
Tasks that are challenging but achievable
Providing players with short term challenges that can be easily achieved gives them a sense of accomplishment.
Will your gamification add value to the consumer?
With gamification catching up with more marketers, some seem to have forgotten the true essence of gamification, which is to add value to people’s lives with the ability to keep them engaged. We see situations where marketers add points, badges and leaderboards to their website which never translates to any actual value. All those statistics should have a reason to exist; they should be making lives better. If your customers sense they’re being taken for a gamification ride it won’t take them long to jump ship.
Where they went wrong
Shoe maker, Zappos fell into this trap when it decided to assign badges to its VIP customers. More purchases equals more badges. But it turned out the badges were worthless ;they had no monetary value assigned to them, they couldn’t be used to get discounts or gifts; basically Zappos ended up confusing their most loyal customers with a meaningless experience that added no value to their purchases.
Zappos got it wrong when they mixed badges with value. Customers don’t care about badges, they care about what the badges mean. It could be recognition, a store discount, or part of a competition; it could be anything as long as it adds value.
You can change
The search and discovery service, Foursquare almost went down the same road with their gamification mechanism. Badges were a core part of the experience that made Foursquare so popular in the beginning. Users could gain points for “check-in” to locations, earn badges and even get a mayor status for the most check-ins. But as the apps user base started to surpass millions, the original gamification strategy failed to add value to the users who now had to compete with millions of others in the same area for a badge or ranking. Understanding this need Foursquare came up with the Swarm app. Leaderboards and points were now shared with friends so users don’t feel lost amidst the millions of strangers. They adapted the mechanism so that users felt a more personalised touch.
Foursquare has showed us that there is yet hope for marketers who have gone down the wrong path with gamification. Revamp your gamification strategy and make sure your players are rewarded with more than just badges.
Gamification done right
Nike came out with the NikePlus app in 2006 taking gamification to the next level. The app tracks running distance, speed, and time and stores the data so that you can monitor your progress. By allowing users to share stats with friends and other Nike+ users, and compete against one another Nike created a community of people who pushed each other to become better through a healthy lifestyle. Now that’s real tangible value. If you run long enough you could even make it the app leaderboards which feature the top runners.
I’ll let statistics speak for me here.
“Since its launch in 2006, Nike+ has attracted a user base of 28 million people, till date.” says Shea Mittal for hbs.org.
“In 2006, Nike controlled 47% of the running shoe market and launched Nike+ in the middle of the year. In 2007, they controlled 57% of the market, and 61% in 2009. They’ve had a controlling portion of the running shoe market ever since. In 2007 there were 500,000 Nike+ members. In 2013, there were 11,000,000 Nike+ members and the numbers keep growing.” says Ivan Kuo of gamification.co.
Time to decide
Before you head down this road, make sure you are doing it the right way and for the right reasons. Gamification works because it leverages the innate desire of humans for communication, engagement, competition, appreciation and reward. A marketing model built on these pillars can strengthen relationships, engage their customers and keep their loyalty. A model that stay true to adding value to their customers cannot go wrong.
Images: Author’s Own