With consumers spending more time online and engaging with a growing number of websites (across a variety of devices) the challenge to encourage your audience to visit and stay on your website increases. Gamification has been a popular way of encouraging engagement across social and gaming platforms for several years now. It has also been promoted as a mechanism for ecommerce websites to generate greater revenue.
Is there any real evidence that ecommerce sites are doing this in practice? There aren't as many obvious examples as you might think, but I've highlighted 5 different websites below that are using a form of gamification which should ultimately result in greater revenue.
For the purposes of this I have assumed that "Gamification" is the use of game mechanics to improve user engagement & return on investment. Game mechanics include such tactics as:
- Rewards (and Risk and Reward)
- Goals, Points & Status
- Territory control & Resource Management
- Dice (and Chance)
In each of the examples below I've indicated which game mechanic I think is being used, but let me know if you disagree.
Game mechanic: Auction and status.
One of the most established ecommerce website using game mechanics to increase revenue and success; ebay has always had the auction element as a core part of its proposition. The auction mechanic in this case not only makes the whole buying process seem more interesting (for many, but not everyone) but it becomes so important for some that the final price paid can be significantly higher than could have been achieved elsewhere; the positive feeling from WINNING is worth paying extra for!
Further to this, ebay also uses form of point scoring to enable increased status. This is done through gaining a higher "seller" rating if you can attain regular, positive feedback from your customers; the higher your rating, the more trust you will build with prospective buyers.
Through both of these mechanics ebay increases their revenue through both higher prices and more regular use of the site.
Game mechanic: (Risk and) Reward.
A clever sales tactic used by DropBox and a few other technology service companies is to offer your existing customer an upgrade to their product in return for convincing their friends to become customers. In the case of DropBox, existing customers can gain an extra 1GB of space for each friend who signs up (the friend gets 500MB too).
It may be seen as a simple "recommend a friend" tactic, but because of the nature of building up your own storage space and the way that you can easily "play" by sharing on Facebook etc. I think this classifies as gamification. The reward element is clear - in my opinion there is a risk element too - you risk annoying your friends by pestering them to sign up!
Game mechanic: (Risk and) Reward.
Very similar to the DropBox method, but worth mentioning because it's from an online retailer (rather than a technology company giving away something that doesn't really have a tangible cost to them).
Again, in my view the Risk and Reward elements are clear - you share a code with your friends and earn a discount. The "play" element is also clear in the design of the offer, the creative is fun and engaging and makes you want to act.
Further to this there are other elements of game mechanics involved: There is a limit on the number of times you can "play" - this helps to add to the perceived value of the offer. Also, you can choose to give your reward to charity instead of using it as a discount - this is attempting to appeal to the altruistic nature of the audience. All of this is designed to increase the value of the reward and hence the power of the "game".
Game mechanic: Status, Goals and Racing.
How many LinkedIn contacts do you have? How complete is your pro/wp-content/uploads/file? How does it compare to your peers? How often do you get viewed?Don't you feel at least the tiniest bit competitive about being the first one in your team to reach 500 contacts?! More recently LinkedIn have been pushing the "endorse" element which is a follow up to the more indepth "recommendations" feature. All of these elements are trying to persuade users to spend more time on their own pro/wp-content/uploads/file as well as interacting with other LinkedIn users to give them virtual praise and to in turn remind them that they could spend a little time cultivating their own pro/wp-content/uploads/file..... and so the cycle continues.
LinkedIn generates revenue through advertising and premium subscriptions. By encouraging users to spend more time cultivating their pro/wp-content/uploads/file, they spend more time on site (more pageviews = more ad revenue) and more users will be persuaded that a premium subscription wil be of value to them (subscription = revenue). Win win!
Game mechanic: Status & Goals.
Salesforce uses the game mechanics of status and goals in a slightly different way. Experienced Salesforce "superusers" can take part in their on site commmunity to answer questions and help other Salesforce users with challenges and best practice. Each time these experts help others, their contribution is counted and listed on their pro/wp-content/uploads/file. You can see on the screen shot below that Jeff is #2 in the table of community contribution; amongst other things he has answered 5,419 questions! This has helped him become a "community leader" from which he earns credibility and authority amongst his peer group, but more importantly to Jeff (I assume) it will help him to find more business as a Salesforce consultant and probably allow him to charge more for his services.
There are several benefits for Salesforce:
- They are seen to be openly helping their user community by providing a help forum.
- The help forum is essentially managed by the community at little cost to Salesforce (they provide the platform, but the community generally answer all the questions).
- By helping to give status to these community leaders, they are supporting and building their network of Salesforce evangelists.
- By bringing customers deeper into this community, they not only increase the value of Salesforce, but they increase the reliability of customers on it as a tool, hence it is incredibly powerful for customer retention.
It shouldn't be surprising that a sales focussed technology company has come up with such a clever way of indirectly selling itself.
That's 5 examples of companies using game mechanics to encourage website interaction in order to generate more revenue. ebay, DropDox, Graze, Salesforce & LinkedIn. There has clearly been some intelligent planning behind these ideas. Whether the business owners started by trying to work out a way to use game mechanics only they know, but the results seem pretty successful.
Improving website user experience AND providing content with real value has never been so important. The right application of game mechanics can help deliver great solutions to these challenges. I think I'll arrange another idea workshop for one of our Clients....