Let’s Play a Game!
The ecommerce world has been abuzz recently with talks about gamification. It seems every guru in the business is proclaiming gamification “the new frontier,” and a “game changer.” This leads us to the point of today’s article. Although gamification is often presented as a new idea, it’s actually a very old (and effective) sales tool. That being said, its potential as an ecommerce tactic is just being fully realized.
Old Ideas, New Execution
Gamification has been around in some form or another for generations. Car salesmen have long been known for using tactics like prize wheels and contests to draw in customers. However, one of the most striking examples of gamification’s power comes from Harold Mertz, the founder of Publisher’s Clearing House.
PCH, as it’s often referred to, started in a time when many consumers subscribed to magazines via house calls from door-to-door salesmen. Mertz’s idea seems simple enough today; instead of sending out sales-people, he simply started selling subscriptions by mail. His initial response rate was about 1%.
To increase sales, he started including sweepstakes entries to entice people. With creative notices, contests and expanded offers, PCH grew rapidly. Between 1953 and 2019, PCH went from operating out of a basement to a billion dollar conglomerate, largely thanks to the power of gamification.
With the advent of ecommerce, opportunities for gamification have expanded far beyond mail-order sweepstakes. Here are a few ways to incorporate gamification into your customer experience.
Rewards programs are a great way to create returning customers. As we’ve talked about before, customer loyalty is hugely important to the success of an ecommerce brand. In fact, converting a new customers is 5 – 25x more expensive than converting a returning one. Additionally, 63% of Millennial and Gen X consumers refuse to commit to a brand without a rewards program.
This is where gamification comes in. Customers respond best to programs that give them a physical representation of their rewards progress. How you demonstrate this collecting of points is up to you. Starbucks famously uses stars to represent progress. Pizza Hut and Dominos offer pieces of a virtual pie, culminating in a free (real) pizza. The representation doesn’t necessarily have to directly relate to what you do, but it should make it interesting for customers to see their loyalty progress. If you use tiers in your program, make the user feel special about reaching the next level of loyalty with badges, medal, or themed colors. What’s important is that users can see their progress, know what they’re aiming for, and feel rewarded for spending more.
Online shoppers love free shipping. This is a relatively expensive preference for ecommerce brands, who don’t enjoy footing the bill for deliveries. As a sort of compromise, many sites offer free shipping on orders of a certain value. Some shoppers become frustrated with this concept because they have to keep checking their subtotal to see if they qualify.
Gamification can actually make it fun to meet minimums. For example, a graphic designed like an old-school mercury thermometer can track how close customers are to their “goal.” You can also be more creative; virtually any graphic related to your site that shows physical progress towards a goal helps customers internalize a spending goal.
This is also a great chance to incorporate product recommendations. One format option is to show recommended products that will fulfill the minimum order threshold. This gives the shoppers fun ideas for new purchases while encouraging them to spend more, thus raising AOV.
Turn Discounts into Mini-Games
Let’s say you’re offering a 20% discount to customers, but customers don’t seem to be engaging with the offer. This is an excellent opportunity to turn your discount into a mini-game.
Although creating a mini-game may sound like a lot of work, they don’t have to be sophisticated, complicated or expensive; it’s time to channel your inner Monty Hall.
For instance, you could offer customers an opportunity to choose one of three “doors” with a discount behind it. (The secret being that all 3 doors held the same coupon). Another popular alternative is spinners and wheels in the vein of Wheel of Fortune. The only limit is your creativity. You can draw inspiration from card games, carnival attractions, game shows, or anything that involves playing a game for a prize.
Gamifiying discounts engages customers in multiple ways. It makes customers feel like they’ve “earned” an incentive, which makes them more invested in using it. It also forces shoppers to exit an “autopilot” mindset and pay attention to your site.
Gamification is an old tactic that ecommerce is just beginning to fully take advantage of. It has the potential to engage customers, and make the shopping experience more fun. Although the amount of hype around gamification can seem sensationalist, gamified shopping experiences create a more enjoyable shopping environment, while increasing customer engagement and overall AOV.