I love gaming with companies when I can. What do I mean by gaming, exactly? Well, it’s using game mechanics or strategy in other contexts to improve things like engagement or retention. It’s a strategy that is immersive to your customer in your brand, and rewarding. This translates well to your business. We can see, too, how popular this term is becoming to other businesses:
Google Trends report on “Gamification” in search from January 2010 – January 2014.
Know your customer
When JC Penney, led by Ron Johnson, got rid of all the systems of coupons, early bird bargains and specialty pricing, sales plummeted. He thought that by removing all these coupon “games”, that customers can finally expect and enjoy flat pricing. This seems logical, but their customers did not react well to this. Their customer base expected gamification marketing.
- This didn’t attract their customer base into the store, so they lost sales. The customer has to be lured into the store.
- This change did not satisfy the customer in-store or online since there weren’t bargains. The customer has to feel like they found a deal in the hunt.
- There wasn’t anything to attract them back. For retention, the customer has to receive an invitation back.
What can you do? Basic gamification marketing
- Point systems or loyalty programs. Create rewards people can work for and feel satisfied earning.
- Limited time sales or coupons, but try not to create patterns they may expect. Retain unpredictability and curiosity.
- Hidden sales, like only to email subscribers or only per item. Maybe try a scavenger hunt. These will end up feeling like “Easter eggs” and make the customer feel like they’ve found something very special. Bonobos started a social media scavenger hunt in 2011. They gave away $25 and Free Shipping to the first 50 people each day that found a hidden graphic of a male model wearing their signature pants.
- Progress bars in the UI to indicate where the user is in their task. This should sound familiar, it’s becoming standard practice in interaction design now. The most common use for this is during the checkout process. Knowing the end goal gives them something to work towards. What else could you use it with?
- Be creative with social media! Reward people for communication or sharing your products. BHLDN asked people to create Pinterest boards with their products to share for rewards.
- Personalization is big – take Threadless.com for example – they let their customer create the designs, vote on the designs and buy the designs. They use personalization to drive competition and point systems while connecting to their customer personally.
- Online boutique stores like GILT, HauteLook, RueLaLa, or Fab, all used to limit access by requiring signup. “Invitation only” made access seem like it was worth keeping by shopping. Their models were also similar when they first started – providing product that would only be accessible for a short time. That timing and competition often sold products quickly. Their entire branding hones this idea of exclusive access, right down to their amazing packaging.
Seriously, get to know your customer
Although I like a good bargain myself, I’m not exactly your ideal customer, because I’m in the industry. So, you won’t attract me, and I won’t feel like I am gaming you – I will feel like I am being gamed. Make sure you know who your customer base is, who you are targeting, and engineer the strategy to them and their needs. Customers like me will probably love gamification systems that are social versus commercial. Going social may not create a sale immediately, but it may retain me as a customer and gain you referrals. Money-savvy shoppers sometimes have the loudest voices. Only way to know what works for you is to experiment, so go have some fun!