How to Align Ecommerce Strategy with Gamification Techniques

Gamification has long been part of the daily shopping experience. Leading brands like Nike, Coca-Cola and Perrier understand the effect that entertaining shopping experiences have on customers, as do e-commerce brands Amazon, Ebay, and Zappos.

Many companies employ game experiences to capitalize on the six basic elements of human nature: desire, incentive, challenge, achievement/reward, feedback, and mastery. Companies of all types can profit by integrating gaming thinking and mechanics to achieve results, from attracting customers and retaining customers, engaging users and employees, building team spirit, among other benefits.

Gamifying the Call-to-Action

People want to become the best at a specific activity, and they want to be rewarded for their expertise. Marketers understand the motivating effects of creating a time frame to entice shoppers to purchase, or offering a specified number of products at a discounted price to get buyers to act before time expires.

The online auction marketplace eBay became one of the first ecommerce companies to incorporate timing and gamification elements in many aspects of its business process. The bidding system itself relies on time-sensitive gaming mechanics, which take advantage of shoppers’ competitive nature to trigger impulse purchases. Other examples include: Black Friday, Alibaba’s Singles Day Sale and Cyber Monday.

Gamification and Customer Engagement

Simply sending customers a thank you email for purchasing a product or service does little to promote brand loyalty. In exchange for continual engagement with a brand, customers expect something more tangible. Company loyalty programs are perhaps the most prevalent way to reward their most dedicated customers. Not only can brand stewards express their gratitude towards core devotees, but rewarding less established customers, they spark a desire to be included in the club and rewarded for their purchases.

Case in point, the Gilt Groupe’s “Gilt Noir Loyalty Program” provides is an effective customer loyalty program focused on increasing customer activity. Upon being inducted into the club, each member is given a package of perks, such as a special candle, and an official membership card. They also receive early viewing privileges for sales and access to exclusive sales unavailable to others. Once they become members of the VIP club, they receive strong incentives to continue their purchasing habits to avoid losing their prized membership.

According to Forrester, successful engagement must contain some degree of the four I’s:

  • Involvement- This characteristic increases participation, which lead to more returns to the website and attract new users and registrations.
  • Interaction- Participants interaction with the products leads to a higher probability of purchase.
  • Intimacy- Using fun and rewards, companies can correspond with players on a more personal level, which builds trust and leads to longer-lasting relationships.
  • Influence- As players earn badges, tokens and other incentives they want to share their status and accomplishments with people in their social network. This status or “bragging rights” promote more sharing, which encourage their peers and onlookers to join in the fun.

The concept behind gamification hinges on the capture of the audience’s attention and heightens engagement through the introduction of “fun” into normally routine, often boring activities.

Grow Your Company and Boost Revenues

Companies that effectively leverage gamification often realize a substantial increase in revenues. Enterprises positioned in the top 20% average 250% higher revenue growth compared to their peers, reports Gartner. From its meager beginning as an online mens’ pants retailer, Bonobos increased sales by injecting hidden images of models dressed in signature pants on NotCouture and NOTCOT.org. The first 50 people to find the pants received a $25 Bonobos credit plus free shipping.

The good news is that one need not implement complicated game mechanisms. For example, Teleflora, the online floral delivery service, offers users elevated status and communal recognition for contributing content to its community. The company motivates customers to earn better titles (“influencer”) and higher positions on leaderboards by performing tasks, such as:

  • Providing helpful responses to queries of other users
  • Writing comments or customer reviews
  • Posting related content on Facebook
  • Sending feedback

Whoever is the first to review a product or answer a question in the Q&A section, receives additional points, encouraging users to actively browse the website while providing insightful answers to customers in need. Although some websites have failed to see tangible results from virtual reward programs, Teleflora’s strategy proved to be successful. Facebook referral traffic increased 105% with ten times as many pictures and videos uploaded, increasing their conversion rate 92%.

Another online retailer, Step2, took Teleflora’s approach further by using a similar model with more effective incentive alignment. They put a greater emphasis on social media activity by offering users bigger rewards (15 points) for Facebook shares. They also created a more social atmosphere by giving users the option of customizing their profiles. Their efforts have paid off: Step2 saw a 135% increase in Facebook referrals and a 600% increase in media uploads.

Many ecommerce brands use gamification to build brand recognition, acquire and retain customers, and to engage and motivate employees. Businesses can choose from a variety of gamification approaches, from easy to use techniques to more advanced designs, to obtain better results no matter what the objectives.

Sean Gordon is the CEO of Intelliverse.

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