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Definition of gamification in digital marketing
Whilst we have all heard of gamification, what exactly is it? Gamification is a process which takes a mundane task (such as looking after your bank account) and turns it into an interactive game with points and rewards received when people achieve predefined goals. Gamification in digital marketing can improve the customer experience for stagnant companies and can inject dynamism. For training, it can also improve information retention.
Gamification takes data-driven techniques used by game designers and applies these to non-game experiences such as websites or online platforms. This motivates actions, engagement and loyalty and, results in additional customer data being accrued by your business.
Things to keep in mind to achieve gamification in digital marketing
If you decide to adopt the process of gamification in digital marketing then you need to take account of the following before you begin:
- Do Not Confuse Activity with Success – The hype surrounding this process is high so you need to focus on the results, not the solutions. Many companies get fixated on what they are doing rather than what they have achieved.
- Think of the Audience as Players – Companies get lost by believing that throwing a few badges and point scoring systems onto websites will bring customers flocking. This is just not the case as Google found out when they awarded badges to those who read their news. These have now been withdrawn. Your offering to your audience must comprise a meaningful incentive.
- Clearly Identify the Business’s Objectives – Cut through the hype. Don’t get stuck on using gamification as a solution which needs a problem i.e. seeking an opportunity to use it. Instead, work on putting together a list of clear business goals and a critical analysis which proves the suitability of gamification to achieve those objectives.
- Design for Player-Centricity – Leaders in the gamification sector, such as Nike, focus on a design which motivates the players. Don’t focus on identifying the business objectives without clearly identifying those of the player. You need to get to a point where the business objectives and player objectives overlap – so both player and business have a common goal.
Example – NikeFuel
Nike is a big user of gamification. Since it released FuelBand it has been working on adding more new features to keep customers absorbed. The process works by using the customer’s everyday movements and tracking them with NikeFuel. The user sets his or her level of play and is then challenged to earn a set amount of NikeFuel in order to move onwards and upwards to the next stage. Each level/mission is played against the clock and makes use of all devices that collect NikeFuel. As each mission takes place, the user meets virtually with a Nike athlete who provides them with suggestions and advice. This enables them to battle on and get to the next mission. At the end of each level, they can track their progress.
5 mechanics of gamification
The five most commonly used mechanics of gamification are as follows:
- Points: The use of points is widespread, even within apps which are not game related. They provide a good way of keeping track of the user’s achievements when compared to others. They also act to keep the user motivated as he or she focuses on getting to the next stage. Sometimes this can even work as a currency related to activity. For example, Health Month uses a point system whereby each person begins with 10 points and, the goal is that, by the end of the month, they need to have at least one left. The idea is that points are lost when rules are broken, although friends can help the player to get points back by ‘healing’.
- Badges: Digital badges are also incredibly popular. Foursquare recently used real-life merit badges ranging from easy for Newbies, up to extra-hard with 10 movie tickets being required to hit the top Zoetrope badge.
- Levels: Zynga makes use of levels to make tending crops interesting. Users are persuaded to move up through the levels, gaining improved discounts as they do so.
- Leaderboards: Leaderboards are used to incite users to play, often ranking them against friends. This was a tactic adopted by Foursquare. Points are awarded for a check-in and then users can view their rating on the leaderboard in comparison to your friends.
- Challenges: These can be simple or complex, often involving group play. Priebatsch applied this theory to its South by Southwest Interactive keynote by using a group challenge where players had to work together. At the same time, they offered a $10,000 donation to the National Wildlife Foundation as part of the deal.
How gamification leads to increased retention
When making use of gamification in digital marketing, it can increase retention if you cater to a wide range of players. You need to get to know your audience, using campaigns that will appeal. You can then use your gamification techniques to produce highly targeted messages based upon player behaviour.
There are three different types of reward structures that you can make use of to increase retention:
- Points – Think of this as a loyalty programme; with each customer being awarded points according to their actions. This is a good method for companies who’s customers have a high frequency of purchase, such as supermarkets or fast-food outlets. Don’t make it too complicated with lots of complex rules. Delta Airlines and United Airlines simplified their loyalty programme by switching from a miles flow points system to one based upon dollars spent. You have to make the process easy to follow with no hidden fees or rules that spoil it for those that participate.
- Achievement – Here, participants need to attain certain levels of achievement in order to reap the benefits. A tiered-system is well suited to this structure; the higher the level, the more rewards the customer receives. This is often used in the customer loyalty programmes offered by airlines and luxury brands with high price-points. It also enables businesses to see how buyers interact with their brand and enables them to ensure that the loyalty programme aligns with their customers. Treehouse is a virtual training academy; to ensure that students don’t cancel, they use badges and points which are awarded as they work their way through the course. A tracker clearly shows the student’s progress, enabling them to showcase their achievements whilst also impressing potential employers.
- Competition – Everyone loves a competition so, you can draw customers in by inviting them to compete and having a leaderboard that is updated regularly. Autodesk is a 3D design, engineering and entertainment software company. It used this method to increase usage of its 3DS Max product. Autodesk found that users during the trial were far more likely to convert to being a customer if they had used the software at least three times during the trial period. As the software was quite complex, Autodesk used gamification to create fascinating tutorials. Users received points whilst taking part in ‘missions’, allowing them to move up the leaderboard with the top users receiving a prize. It worked well: The contest increased trial engagement by 54% and conversion rates by 15%. There was also a 29% increase in revenue per trial, showing that users spent more money on expensive items and on buying multiple software licenses.
More gamification ideas
There are so many examples of gamification in digital marketing. Here are just a few – get into brainstorming mode and see what others you can generate:
- How about having a leader board on your website or social media site showing the first name or initial of the customer who completes a set task?
- Celebrate with your customer via your website or similar when they hit a milestone – i.e. they just made their 25th purchase from you!
- If you have stores, award your regular customers with a discount or small prize.
- Keep a record of your customers’ favourite football teams and have a graph in the store showing interesting information i.e. XXY supporters buy lots of coffee etc.!
- You can even ask customers to suggest ideas for a new product – and show the top voted suggestion on the website homepage.
There are so many things that you can do so, don’t be afraid to come up with your own ideas. Look at what competitors or those within the same industry are doing and gain inspiration. Think of how you can motivate your customers, retain their interest and keep them engaged as loyal buyers through the use of gamification in digital marketing.